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Survival and influence of Greek mathematics

I. Before you read: What does the title of the passage suggest?

II. Read the passage and see if we can find a proof of it in the text.

Notable in the closing phase of Greek mathematics were Pappus (early 4th century AD), and Theon (late 4th century) and his daughter Hypatia (d. 415). All were active in Alexandria as professors of mathematics and astronomy, and they produced extensive commentaries on the major authorities—Pappus and Theon on Ptolemy, Hypatia on Diophantus and Apollonius. Later, Eutocius of Ascalon (early 6th century) produced commentaries on Archimedes and Apollonius. While much of their output has since been lost, much survives. They proved themselves reasonably competent in technical matters but little inclined toward significant insights (their aim was usually to fill in minor steps assumed in the proofs, to append alternative proofs, and the like), and the level of originality was very low. But these scholars frequently preserved fragments of older works that are now lost, and their teaching and editorial efforts assured the survival of the works of Euclid, Archimedes, Apollonius, Diophantus, Ptolemy, and others that now do exist, either in Greek manuscripts or in medieval translations (Arabic, Hebrew, and Latin) derived from them.

The legacy of Greek mathematics, particularly in the fields of geometry and geometric science, was enormous. From an early period the Greeks formulated the objectives of mathematics not in terms of practical procedures but as a theoretical discipline committed to the development of general propositions and formal demonstrations. The range and diversity of their findings, especially those of the masters of the 3rd century BC, supplied geometers with subject matter for centuries thereafter, even though the tradition that was transmitted into the Middle Ages and Renaissance was incomplete and defective.

The rapid rise of mathematics in the 17th century was based in part on the conscious imitation of the ancient classics and on competition with them. In the geometric mechanics of Galileo and the infinitesimal researches of Kepler and Cavalieri, it is possible to perceive a direct inspiration from Archimedes. The study of the advanced geometry of Apollonius and Pappus stimulated new approaches in geometry—for example, the analytic methods of Descartes and the projective theory of Girard Desargues. Purists like Huygens and Newton insisted on the Greek geometric style as a model of rigour, just as others sought to escape its forbidding demands of completely worked-out proofs. The full impact of Diophantus' work is evident particularly with Pierre de Fermat in his researches in algebra and number theory. Although mathematics has today gone far beyond the ancient achievements, the leading figures of antiquity, like Archimedes, Apollonius, and Ptolemy, can still be rewarding reading for the ingenuity of their insights.

III. What can you say about the survival of Greek mathematics?

IV. What did Greek mathematics influence? Comment on the legacy of Greek mathematics.

Mathematics in medieval Islām


Date: 2015-01-29; view: 885


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