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### 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/
```
Associated Topics:
Elementary Math History/Biography
Middle School History/Biography
Middle School Ratio and Proportion

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