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Topic: Infinity and Theology (45)
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Registered: 10/18/08
Infinity and Theology (45)
Posted: Dec 6, 2013 7:23 AM
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In the first half of the last century a curious attempt been made by the famous French Fontenelle (in the book "Eléments de la Géometrie de l'infini", Paris 1727), to introduce actually infinite numbers; this attempt however has failed and has brought him some mockery, not quite undeserved, from the mathematicians who were active in the 18th century and the first quarter of this century; the present generation does not know about that. Fontenelles attempt was doomed to failure because his infinite numbers brought with them a flagrant contradiction; it has been easy to show this contradiction, and that has been done best by R. P. Gerdil. But if d'Alembert, Lagrange and Cauchy have believed that the dormant idea of the transfinite has been stroken deadly by that for all times, then this error appears by far greater than that of Fontanelle and the more grave because Fontenelle in the most humble way confesses to be a layman in mathematics whereas those three have not only been professionals but really great mathematicians.
[Cantor to Prof. Aloys Schmid, 26 March 1887 from C. Tapp: "Kardinalität und Kardinäle: Wissenschaftshistorische Aufarbeitung der Korrespondenz zwischen Georg Cantor und katholischen Theologen seiner Zeit." Boethius Vol. 53, Franz Steiner Verlag (2005) p. 500f]

Regards, WM

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