# The Timid Symbol

# The Timid Symbol

This chapter discusses the evolution of symbols as used in mathematics. It begins by considering Michael Stifel's *Arithmetica Integra*, a treatise on arithmetic and algebra that included several symbols such as “plus,” “minus,” and “radix,” but not a sign for “equals.” The oldest notation for radicals (square roots, cube roots, and so on) dates back to about 1480, when a dot placed before the radicand was used to signify a square root: two dots for the fourth root, and three dots for the cube root. By 1524, the dot evolved into a blackened point with a tail bent upward to the right. Algebra at that time was concerned with solving cubic and higher degree polynomials. The chapter also examines Stifel's edition of Christoff Rudolff's *Die Coss* (1525) and the sign used by Nicolas Chuquet to symbolize the square root.

*Keywords:*
symbols, mathematics, Michael Stifel, Arithmetica Integra, algebra, square roots, polynomials, Christoff Rudolff, Die Coss, Nicolas Chuquet

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