MathHistory5a: Number theory and algebra in Asia

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After the later Alexandrian mathematicians Ptolemy and Diophantus, Greek mathematics went into decline and the focus shifted eastward. This lecture discusses some aspects of Chinese, Indian and Arab mathematics, in particular the interest in number theory: Pell's equation, the Chinese remainder theorem, and algebra. Most crucial was the introduction of the Hindu-Arabic number system that we use today.

We also discuss the influence of probably the most important problem of the mathematical sciences from a historical point of view: understanding the motion of the night sky, in particular the planets. This motivated work in trigonometry, particularly spherical trigonometry, of both Indian and Arab mathematicians.

Prominent mathematicians whose work we discuss include Sun Zi, Aryabhata, Brahmagupta, Bhaskara I and II, al-Khwarizmi, al-Biruni and Omar Khayyam.

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number theory Mahematics
number theory, math

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