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Contribution of Romans in Math History

Date: 12/18/2006 at 21:30:14
From: vinny
Subject: Roman contribution to math

How did the Romans contribute to math?  What did they add to 
mathematics besides Roman numerals?

Date: 12/18/2006 at 22:57:04
From: Doctor Peterson
Subject: Re: Roman contribution to math

Hi, Vinny.

In _Mathematical Thought from Ancient to Modern Times_, Morris Kline
devotes about two pages to Roman mathematics (pp. 178-179).  This
begins with the following statement:

  The first disaster was the advent of the Romans, whose entire role
  in the history of mathematics was that of an agent of destruction.

He continues, saying, "Roman mathematics hardly warrants mention. ...
from at least 200 B.C. onward, the Romans were in close contact with
the Greeks.  Yet in all of the eleven hundred years there was not one
Roman mathematician; apart from a few details this fact in itself
tells virtually the whole story of Roman mathematics."

He goes on to list a few facts: their numerals, their use of the
abacus, their base-12 fractions, their use of math in surveying, and
their improvement of the calendar.  In general, it appears that
although they made use of some sorts of mathematics (borrowed from the
Greeks) in architecture and engineering, they developed nothing new.
Even their familiar numerals are hardly different from one form used 
by the Greeks.

If you have any further questions, feel free to write back.

- Doctor Peterson, The Math Forum 
Associated Topics:
Elementary Math History/Biography
High School History/Biography
Middle School History/Biography

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