A History of Mathematics

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The history of mathematics may be instructive as well as agreeable; it may not only remind us of what we have, but may also teach us how to increase our store. Says De Morgan, The early history of the mind of men with regard to mathematics leads us to point out our own errors; and in this respect it is well to pay attention to the history of mathematics." Itwarns us against hasty conclusions; it points out the importance of a good notation upon the progress of the science; it discourages excessive specialisation on the part of investigators, by showing how apparently distinct branches have been found to possess unexpected connecting links; it saves the student fromwasting time and energy upon problems which were, perhaps, solved long since; it discourages him from attacking an unsolved problem by the same method which has led other mathematicians to failure. 

   

An increased interest in the history of the exact sciences manifested in recent years by teachers everywhere, and the attention given to historical inquiry in the mathematical class-rooms and seminaries of our leading universities, cause me to believe that a brief general History of Mathematics will be found acceptable to teachers and students. 

The contemplation of the various steps by which mankind has come into possession of the vast stock of mathematical knowledge can hardly fail to interest the mathematician. He takes pride in the fact that his science, more than any other, is an exact science, and that hardly anything ever done in mathematics has proved to be useless.

The chemist smiles at the childish efforts of alchemists, but the mathematician finds the geometry of the Greeks and the arithmetic of the Hindoos as useful and admirable as any research of today. He is pleased to notice that though, in course of its development, mathematics has had periods of slow growth, yet in the main it has been pre-eminently a progressive science.

The pages treating|necessarily in a very condensed form of the progress made during the present century, are put forth with great di_dence, although I have spent much time in the effort to render them accurate and reasonably complete. 

Many valuable suggestions and criticisms on the chapter on Recent Times" have been made by Dr. E. W. Davis, of the University of Nebraska. The proof-sheets of this chapter have also been submitted to Dr. J. E. Davies and Professor C. A. Van Velzer, both of the University of Wisconsin; to Dr. G. B. Halsted, of the University ofTexas; Professor L. M. Hoskins, of the Leland Stanford Jr. University; and Professor G. D. Olds, of Amherst College,|all of whom have a_orded valuable assistance. I am specially indebted to Professor F. H. Loud, of Colorado College, who has read the proof-sheets throughout. 

To all the gentlemen above named, as well as to Dr. Carlo Veneziani of Salt Lake City, who read the first part of my work in manuscript, I desire to express my hearty thanks. But in acknowledging their kindness, I trust that I shall not seem to lay upon them any share in the responsibility for errors which I may have introduced in subsequent revision of the text. 

FLORIAN CAJORI.

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