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Taming the UnknownA History of Algebra from Antiquity to the Early Twentieth Century$
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Victor J. Katz and Karen Hunger Parshall

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780691149059

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691149059.001.0001

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Egypt and Mesopotamia

Egypt and Mesopotamia

(p.12) 2 Egypt and Mesopotamia
Taming the Unknown

Victor J. Katz

Karen Hunger Parshall

Princeton University Press

This chapter explores the beginnings of algebra in Egypt and Mesopotamia. They are the earliest civilizations to have left written mathematical records, and they date back thousands of years. From both, we have original documents detailing mathematical calculations and mathematical problems, mostly designed to further the administration of the countries. Both also fostered scribes of a mathematical bent who carried out mathematical ideas well beyond the immediate necessity of solving a given problem. If mathematics was thus similarly institutionalized in Egypt and Mesopotamia, it nevertheless took on dramatically different forms, being written in entirely distinct ways in the two different regions. This key difference aside, the beginnings of algebra are evident in the solutions of problems that have come down to us from scribes active in both of these ancient civilizations.

Keywords:   Egypt, Mesopotamia, proportions, geometrical algebra, ancient mathematical records, institutionalized mathematics, ancient civilizations

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