Regular readers will know that I’m interested in the history of mathematics and am a fan of Archimedes. Well, here’s another video on the Archimedes Codex, this time by William Noel at TED rather than one by his coauthor, Reviel...

## Euclid and Eratosthenes — Greek or African?...

posted by Kevin Houston

Last month the mathematics author John Derbyshire wrote an online article not about mathematics but on his personal views regarding race. Views which eventually got him sacked as a columnist for the publisher. The Guardian newspaper responded through an article by Jonathan Farley. My post today is not about race but rather about some points made in the comments to Farley’s article. In his article Farley said … Euclid, Eratosthenes and other African mathematicians outshone Europe’s brightest stars for millennia. In the comments section it was asked They are known as Greek mathematicians. Why are they quoted in an article about Black mathematicians? Now, one should avoid getting involved in fights in comments section and fortunately someone had replied in a comment later highlighted by Guardian staff Well, Euclid is ‘Euclid of Alexandria’ which is in Egypt of course and Eratosthenes was born in Cyrene (modern Libya). So I don’t think its erroneous to say they were black mathematicians. Various arguments were made later in the comments about whether North African counted as black. I’m not going to get into this argument either. Instead my post is about the precise origins of Euclid and Eratosthenes. In my geometry and history of mathematics courses I tell my students that when we talk of Greek mathematicians, we should not think of them as swanning around in Athens dressed in togas. Instead they came from all over the Mediterranean, from what we now call Italy, Egypt, Turkey, Libya and so on. Some even came from Greece. (And they didn’t wear togas. That was the Romans. The Greeks wore a chiton, a type of tunic.) A good example of this is the greatest Greek scientist, Archimedes, who was from Syracuse in Sicily. But what about Euclid and Eratosthenes?...

## Antikythera Mechanism...

posted by Kevin Houston

I only discovered this yesterday. BBC Four has shown a film on the Antikythera mechanism. It can be found here I haven’t had a chance to view the programme yet so I don’t know whether it is any good. Note that even if you are in a region where you can view iPlayer programmes it is only available for one more day (unless you download to the iPlayer desktop). UPDATE: 22/5/12. I managed to watch the programme last night. It was quite good despite an early lapse in voiceover grammar and some dodgy computer effects (most were ok – just some were dodgy). And who was the mystery woman who walked around the Greek games stadium with the academic who was explaining it to us? Anyhow, leaving aside the minor problems that beset all TV productions the programme did cover the recent revelations of the mechanism by the Antikythera Mechanism Research Project but did not ignore the contribution of Michael Wright of the British Museum. I do have to argue with the speculation that Archimedes had been in some way involved. There is no evidence that his knowledge was used to construct the mechanism. (The programme also repeated the myth that Archimedes had been killed whilst drawing in the sand. Some of Plutarch’s stories say he was working on a problem but none say it was in the sand.) The bit about the front of the device representing the planets also seemed a bit...

## Mathematics of History...

posted by Kevin Houston

I teach a course on the History of Mathematics but today’s post concerns a TED talk on the Mathematics of History. This very short talk by Jean-Baptiste Michel serves as a follow up to the one given with Erez Lieberman Aiden on What we learned from 5 million books. The idea is that we can use mathematics to understand history. Unfortunately, the talk is too short to develop a coherent argument and the examples given are not exactly new so I’m not yet convinced that they have something. It should be interesting to see whether this develops...

## Discount for Variational Problems in Differential Geometry Book...

posted by Kevin Houston

One for researchers. Last year I, with my colleagues Roger Bielawski and Martin Speight, edited a book, Variational Problems in Differential Geometry. There is currently a US promotional offer for this book: Yes, I want 20% off my copy of Variational Problems in Differential Geometry Feel free to send the link on to people you know who might be...