I’m very excited to announce that my new book, Tales of Impossibility: The 2000-Year Quest to Solve the Mathematical Problems of Antiquity (Princeton University Press, 2019), is now available! (OK. It was published about a month ago, but I am just now getting around to blogging about it.) Like my previous book, Euler’s Gem (Princeton University…

# Tag: history of mathematics

## A Geometry Theorem Looking for a Geometric Proof

[Update: Dan Lawson has proved the theorem without trigonometry. Thanks, Dan!] I spent a good chunk of last week reading about David Johnson Leisk (1906–1975), who is better known by his nom-de-plum Crockett Johnson. Johnson is most well known as the author of Harold and the Purple Crayon, a children’s book from 1955, and its sequels. Johnson was also the…

## Ancient number systems in XeTeX

I am teaching a history of mathematics class this semester. We are beginning with a brief discussion of ancient number systems: Egyptian, Babylonian, Mayan, Chinese, Incan, Greek, Roman, and Hindu-Arabic. As I was writing up the first homework assignment it occured to me that I should investigate whether these numbers could be typeset using LaTeX. It…

## An amazing paragraph from Euler’s Introductio

Today I’d like to share an amazing paragraph from Euler’s 1748 textbook Introductio in analysin infinitorum (Introduction to analysis of the infinite). This two–volume book is what Carl Boyer calls “The foremost textbook of modern times,” edging out, for example, Descartes’s Géométrie, Gauss’ Disquisitiones, and Newton’s Principia. Boyer writes that “Euler accomplished for analysis what Euclid…

## The transcendence of e (part 3)

This is the third part in a 3-part blog post in which we prove that is transcendental. Three-step proof that is transcendental Step 1 Step 2 Step 3 Recall that in step 1 and step 2 we proved that for any prime sufficiently large and that is a nonzero integer. In this step we will…

## The transcendence of e (part 2)

This is the second part in a 3-part blog post in which we prove that is transcendental. Three-step proof that is transcendental Step 1 Step 2 Step 3 Recall that in step 1 we proved the following lemma. Lemma 1. Suppose is a root of the polynomial . Let be a polynomial and . Then…

## The transcendence of e

A real number is called algebraic if it is the root of a polynomial with integer coefficients. Examples of algebraic numbers are (it is the root of ), (), the golden ratio (), and the single real root of the quintic polynomial (which cannot be expressed with radicals). A real number that is not algebraic…

## What do Augustus De Morgan, Chelsea Clinton, Samuel Adams, and Caligula have in common?

The biography of Augustus De Morgan in The MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive ends with the following interesting tidbit. De Morgan was always interested in odd numerical facts and writing in 1864 he noted that he had the distinction of being years old in the year (He was 43 in 1849). Anyone born in 1980…

## Readers’ response: Euler’s greatest hits

My friend Gene Chase is teaching a history of mathematics class at Messiah College this semester. He asked me if I was interested in giving a visiting lecture in his class in a few weeks. The topic: Leonhard Euler. He said that I could talk about whatever I wanted. Wow, the possibilities! So I was…

## Polya on Euler

One of my computer science colleagues sent me this quote from Polya about Euler. This is usually something I’d to post on Twitter, but it is too long. So I thought I’d reproduce it here. …among old mathematicians, I was most influenced by Euler and mostly because Euler did something that no other great mathematician of…