Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Enlightening SymbolsA Short History of Mathematical Notation and Its Hidden Powers$
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content.

Joseph Mazur

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780691173375

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691173375.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM PRINCETON SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.princeton.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Princeton University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in HSO for personal use (for details see www.princeton.universitypressscholarship.com/page/privacy-policy).date: 16 January 2019

The Good Symbol

The Good Symbol

(p.189) Chapter 21 The Good Symbol
Enlightening Symbols

Joseph Mazur

Princeton University Press

This chapter argues that a good symbol should tell a whole story, must have an intelligence of its own, and must be a guide to our own intelligence. It begins with a discussion of the symbol π‎, which first appeared in 1706 and was used by William Jones to denote the ratio of the circumference to the diameter of a circle. The chapter suggests that π‎ evokes notions that might not surface with symbols carrying too much baggage. It then considers how mathematics abstractions and generalizations are applied to something relevant to Earth's existence and how mathematicians use imaginary exponents. It also describes the emergence of a new notion: that magnitude, direction, rotation may be embodied in the symbol itself. Finally, it explains what good mathematical notation is and asserts that whatever a symbol is, it must function as a revealer of patterns, a pointer to generalizations.

Keywords:   symbols, π‎, William Jones, notation, mathematics, exponents

Princeton Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.

Please, subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs , and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us.