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Enlightening SymbolsA Short History of Mathematical Notation and Its Hidden Powers$
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Joseph Mazur

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780691173375

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691173375.001.0001

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Diophantus’s Arithmetica

Diophantus’s Arithmetica

(p.93) Chapter 10 Diophantus’s Arithmetica
Enlightening Symbols

Joseph Mazur

Princeton University Press

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

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