Who Invented Integers?Date: 11/29/2001 at 16:06:05 From: Melanie Subject: Who invented integers and what year they were invented Hey Dr. Math, Who invented integers, and when were they invented? I've looked everywhere on the Web and I can't find the answer. Thank you, Sincerely, Melanie Date: 11/29/2001 at 17:12:03 From: Doctor Peterson Subject: Re: Who invented integers and what year they were invented Hi, Melanie. I'm not sure there's really an answer to this question. The integers were a long, gradual development. The root meaning of integer is "whole"; although you probably think of them as "positive and negative numbers," they are really "whole numbers, whether positive or negative." People were working with integers from the very beginning. According to Jeff Miller's Earliest Known Uses of Words of Mathematics http://jeff560.tripod.com/i.html the word "integer" was first used of whole numbers in 1571 by Thomas Digges; this would have referred only to positive ("whole") numbers. If we think of the invention of integers as specifically the introduction of negative numbers into the number line, then it is still hard to decide when to say that began; when negative numbers were first used, they were not put on an equal footing with positive numbers, and in fact even in the 1700's they were often kept separate. A good case could be made that the positive and negative numbers did not actually become part of a single "number line" (today's "set of integers") until the 1700's or 1800's, as the concept of negative numbers became more acceptable among mathematicians. - Doctor Peterson, The Math Forum http://mathforum.org/dr.math/ |
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