For at least 4,000 years of recorded history, humans have engaged in the study of mathematics. Our progress in this field is a gripping narrative that describes a never-ending search for hidden patterns in numbers, a philosopher's quest for the ultimate meaning of mathematical relationships, and a chronicle of amazing progress. Embark on a supreme intellectual adventure with The Queen of the Sciences: A History of Mathematics, 24 illuminating lectures taught by award-winning Professor of Mathematics David M. Bressoud.
The Queen of the Sciences: A History of Mathematics
Dr. David M. Bressoud is the DeWitt Wallace Professor of Mathematics in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science at Macalester College. He earned his bachelor's degree in Mathematics from Swarthmore College and his master's degree and Ph.D. in Mathematics from Temple University. Professor Bressoud is experienced in teaching mathematics to students of all levels. As a Peace Corps volunteer before earning his Ph.D., he taught mathematics and science to intermediate school students in the West Indies, and he taught Advanced Placement Calculus at State College Area High School in Pennsylvania. A former Fulbright fellow and Sloan Foundation fellow, Professor Bressoud has served as Visiting Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study and the Mathematical Association of America's Pólya Lecturer and has received the Mathematical Association of America's Allegheny Mountain Section Distinguished Teaching Award. He is president of the Mathematical Association of America for the 2009-2011 term. He is the author of more than 50 research articles; 15 articles on mathematics education and related issues; and seven books, including four textbooks that draw on the history of mathematics, and Proof and Confirmation: The Story of the Alternating Sign Matrix Conjecture, which won the MAA Beckenbach Book Prize.
01: What Is Mathematics?
You explore the peculiar nature of mathematics. Why is it that abstractions that arose in one context can lead to unexpected insights in another? This lecture closes with a look at the major conceptual advances that are the focus of this course.
02: Babylonian and Egyptian Mathematics
Egyptian and Mesopotamian mathematics were well developed by the time of the earliest records from the 2nd millennium B.C. Both knew how to find areas and volumes. The Babylonians solved quadratic equations using geometric methods and knew the Pythagorean theorem.
03: Greek Mathematics—Thales to Euclid
This lecture surveys more than 300 years of Greek mathematics, from Thales and Pythagoras to Euclid. Euclid's "Elements" covers much of the mathematical knowledge of the time and is considered the most important book of mathematics ever written.
04: Greek Mathematics—Archimedes to Hypatia
Foremost among Greek mathematicians was Archimedes, who developed methods equivalent to the modern technique of integration. Hypatia was the first woman known to have made important contributions to mathematics and was one of the last scholars of the famous Museion at Alexandria.
05: Astronomy and the Origins of Trigonometry
The origins of trigonometry lie in astronomy, especially in finding the length of the chord that connects the endpoints of an arc of a circle. Hipparchus discovered a solution to this problem, that was later refined by Ptolemy who authored the great astronomical work the "Almagest."
06: Indian Mathematics—Trigonometry Blossoms
You journey through the Gupta Empire and the great period of Indian mathematics that lasted from A.D. 320 to 1200. Along the way, you explore the significant advances that occurred in trigonometry and other mathematical fields.
07: Chinese Mathematics—Advances in Computation
At least as early as the 3rd century B.C.E., Chinese civil servants had to solve problems in surveying and collecting taxes.
08: Islamic Mathematics—The Creation of Algebra
Algebra was perfected here in the 9th century by the great mathematician Abu Jafar al-Kwarizmi, whose name would become the word "algorithm."
09: Italian Algebraists Solve the Cubic
Mathematics from the Islamic world gradually spread into Europe in the 13th century, starting with Leonardo of Pisa, also known as Fibonacci. Italian mathematicians began to make original contributions in the 16th century when they discovered how to solve the general cubic and quartic equations.
10: Napier and the Natural Logarithm
Working at the turn of the 17th century, John Napier found a way to facilitate calculation for astronomers by inventing logarithms. He also discovered the number now designated by the letter "e."
11: Galileo and the Mathematics of Motion
In the early 17th century, Galileo Galilei made important innovations in the study of motion, establishing the pattern of relying on mathematical models to explore physical phenomena. René Descartes and Christiaan Huygens would build directly on his insights.
12: Fermat, Descartes, and Analytic Geometry
A lawyer for whom mathematics was an avocation, Pierre de Fermat was instrumental in the origins of calculus. In 1637, both Fermat and René Descartes published explanations of analytic geometry.
13: Newton—Modeling the Universe
Isaac Newton famously said, "If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." You learn who those giants were and explore Newton's invention of calculus to explain the motions of the heavens in "Principia Mathematica," published in 1687.
14: Leibniz and the Emergence of Calculus
Independently of Newton, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz discovered the techniques of calculus in the 1670s, developing the notational system still used today.
15: Euler—Calculus Proves Its Promise
Leonard Euler dominated 18th-century mathematics so thoroughly that his contemporaries believed he had solved all important problems.
16: Geometry—From Alhambra to Escher
You look at the influence of geometry on art, exploring the intriguing types of symmetry in Moorish tiling patterns. You also examine the geometrical experiments of M. C. Escher and August Möbius.
17: Gauss—Invention of Differential Geometry
You explore Carl Friedrich Gauss and his interest in geometry on various kinds of surfaces, including his work on the parallel postulate, which laid the foundations for non-Euclidean geometry.
18: Algebra Becomes the Science of Symmetry
Algebra underwent a fundamental change in the 19th century, becoming a tool for studying transformations. One of the most tragic stories in mathematics involves Evariste Galois, who invented a set of transformations before dying at age 20 in a duel.
19: Modern Analysis—Fourier to Carleson
By 1800, calculus was well established as a powerful tool for solving practical problems, but its logical underpinnings were shaky. You explore the creative mathematics that addressed this problem in work from Joseph Fourier in the 19th century to Lennart Carleson in the 20th.
20: Riemann Sets New Directions for Analysis
Bernhard Riemann left two famous legacies: the Riemann hypothesis, which deals with the distribution of prime numbers and is the most important open problem in mathematics today, and Riemann's new system of geometry, which Einstein used to develop his general theory of relativity.
21: Sylvester and Ramanujan—Different Worlds
This lecture explores the contrasting careers of James Joseph Sylvester, who was instrumental in developing an American mathematical tradition, and Srinivasa Ramanujan, a poor college dropout from India who produced a rich range of new mathematics during his short life.
22: Fermat's Last Theorem—The Final Triumph
Pierre de Fermat's enigmatic note regarding a proof that he didn't have space to write down sparked the most celebrated search in mathematics, lasting more than 350 years. This lecture follows the route to a proof, finally achieved in the 1990s.
23: Mathematics—The Ultimate Physical Reality
Mathematics is the key to realms outside our intuition. You begin with Maxwell's equations and continue through general relativity, quantum mechanics, and string theory to see how mathematics enables us to work with physical realities for which our experience fails us.
24: Problems and Prospects for the 21st Century
This last lecture introduces some of the most promising and important questions in the field and examines mathematical challenges from other disciplines, especially genetics.