History of Ratio and Proportion
Date: 12/28/2003 at 13:50:08 From: Eric Burgagni Subject: history of ratios and proportions I have a math project on ratios and proportions and I have looked on a lot of sites but I still can't find out who discovered ratios or when they were discovered. Can you help me out?
Date: 12/28/2003 at 20:03:57 From: Doctor Peterson Subject: Re: history of ratios and proportions Hi, Eric. Ratios are one of those ideas that go too far back to be sure where they originated. The discussion of the topic in D. E. Smith's History of Mathematics begins this way: It is rather profitless to speculate as to the domain in which the concept of ratio first appeared. The idea that one tribe is twice as large as another and the idea that one leather strap is only half as long as another both involve the notion of ratio; both are such as would develop early in the history of the race, and yet one has to do with ratio of numbers and the other with the ratio of geometric magnitudes. Indeed, when we come to the Greek writers we find Nicomachus including ratio in his arithmetic, Eudoxus in his geometry, and Theon of Smyrna in his chapter on music. So we can't say who discovered the idea, or what problems first suggested it; the best we can say is that the people he lists (and probably many others, perhaps before the Greeks) developed the theory of ratios beyond the basics. You can look them up on the Web in general, or in this site listed in our FAQ: MacTutor Math History Archive http://www-history.mcs.st-and.ac.uk/ If you have any further questions, feel free to write back. - Doctor Peterson, The Math Forum http://mathforum.org/dr.math/
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