Mathematics history turned on its head


(photo from the cc collection of lambageek, thanks)

I’m not a mathematician, not even by the wildest stretch of imagination. I reckon I have about another 3 years before the kids homework will defeat me.  However, I’m a big fan of the history of mathematics and science; Riemann conjecture, Nash equilibrium, Gauss and number theory, Mandelbrot and so on.  I’m a sucker for layman books on maths and science history, just don’t ask me to factorise, solving where X is a real number.

One of the great  mathematical rivalries was between Newton and Leibniz over who came up with Calculus first. It turns out that they were arguing over second.

A Palimpsest rediscovered showed that Archimedes had a grasp of the principles of calculus 2000 years before either Newton or Leibniz. You can read more about the discovery here.

I wonder how many other inventions and discoveries that we hold so dear are in fact rediscoveries?  Palimpsests do make prior art literature reviews rather difficult.