Diophantus’s Arithmetica

Joseph Mazur

in Enlightening Symbols

Published by Princeton University Press

Published in print December 2016 | ISBN: 9780691173375
Published online January 2018 | e-ISBN: 9781400850112
Diophantus’s Arithmetica

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This chapter discusses Diophantus's Arithmetica and its contribution to symbolic modern mathematics. Some historians in the past have suggested that algebra began with Diophantus, whose Arithmetica is characterized by the crudeness of its notation. Only six of the thirteen books survive as copies of the original Arithmetica in Greek. The chapter considers the debate among scholars over the origins of a symbol used by Diophantus in Arithmetica, which also appears in Heron of Alexandria's Metrica, written in the first century AD. It suggests that Diophantus's notation does not solidly distinguish operational symbols, such as powers or summation, from numbers or indeterminate objects.

Keywords: symbols; Diophantus; Arithmetica; mathematics; algebra; notation; Heron of Alexandria; Metrica; powers

Chapter.  5536 words. 

Subjects: History of Mathematics

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