Posted by: Alexandre Borovik | June 9, 2011

First Appearance of Algebraic Notation

Occasionally one comes across a mathematical text which one feels urges to quote, just for the sheer pleasure of it.

What follows, apprently, was the very first appearance of algebraic notation in mathematical literature:

On the Rules of Symbolic Logistic.

Numerical logistic is [a logistic] that employs numbers, symbolic logistic one that employs symbols or signs for things, as, say, the letters of the alphabet.

There are four basic rules for symbolic logistic just as there are for numerical logistic:


To add one magnitude to another.

Let there be two magnitudes, A and B. One is said to be added to the other.
Since one magnitude is to be added to another, and homogeneous and heterogeneous terms do not affect each other, the two magnitudes proposed to be homogeneous. […]
Analysts customarily indicate a positive affection by the symbol +.

This is Francois Viete circa 1591, The Analytic Art, translated by T. Richard Witmer. The book published by The Kent State University Press in 1983, ISBN 0-87338-282-X.


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