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Q&A #169

Teachers' Lounge Discussion: Etymology of the word mathematics

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From: Sendhil Revuluri <sendhil@revuluri.com>
To: Teacher2Teacher Public Discussion
Date: 2003071704:47:21
Subject: Re: Etymology of the word mathematics

According to Lewis Thomas in "Et Cetera, Et Cetera", as quoted on
http://lhall-mac.math.umr.edu/quotes/LThomas2.html:

"The Indo European root for "mathematics', prophesying the whole
future of the enterprise, was mendh, meaning learn. Not a root
suggesting something natural, lying around in the world waiting to be
picked up. On the contrary, a new, ungiven human activity, requiring
lots of hard thought and hard work, even possibly, at the end of the
day, unattainable. But mendh, learning something, also implies
something peculiarly pleasurable for the human mind, with cognates
carrying the meaning of awake, alert, wise, and eager." 

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