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Quadratic Formula, Distributive Property

Date: 06/02/97 at 13:09:42
From: Domous
Subject: What is so special about the quadratic formula?

I would like to know if the quadratic formula is as important as the 
distributive property for solving equations.

I would also like to know who invented it. Does Descartes have 
anything to do with this?

Date: 06/02/97 at 14:01:41
From: Doctor Wilkinson
Subject: Re: What is so special about the quadratic formula?

It is hard to compare the importance of the distributive property and 
the quadratic formula.  The distributive property is used in all kinds 
of equations, not just quadratic equations, so in that sense it is 
more important.  

It is also a little hard to say who invented the quadratic formula. 
The ancient Bablyonians knew how to solve quadratic equations, but 
they did not really have a formula; they just had a method.

The earliest mathematician to have something like the quadratic 
formula was probably Brahmagupta, in 7th-century India.  But it is 
unlikely that his work was known to European mathematicians before the 
nineteenth century. The Arab mathematician Al-Khwarizm appears to have 
known the quadratic formula in the 11th century, and in his case we 
know that European mathematicians were familiar with his work.

By the time of Descartes the formula was very well known. In fact, by 
that time formulas for solving cubic and quartic equations had been 
discovered by the Italian mathematicans Tartaglia and Cardano.

-Doctor Wilkinson,  The Math Forum
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