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Introduction

  • Clemency Montelle
  • Kim Plofker
Chapter
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Part of the Sources and Studies in the History of Mathematics and Physical Sciences book series (SHMP)

Abstract

The history of computational algorithms, numerical methods, and data analysis has long been understudied in the history of mathematics, particularly outside the area of early modern and modern Western mathematics. Many founders of the modern discipline of history of mathematics in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries shared a professional bias in favor of identifying the essence of mathematics with elegant and rigorous demonstration of abstract propositions, which was viewed by most of their contemporaries as the highest form of mathematical endeavor. They largely disregarded the evolution of more plebeian or mechanical mathematical activities, such as approximating numerical parameters, constructing tables of function values, and optimizing computational performance. It has only recently started to become apparent how much interesting material the pioneers of history of mathematics overlooked when they neglected the arts of “number-crunching.” The distorting impact of this historiographic bias on our understanding of the development of mathematics has been particularly severe in the case of non-Western mathematical traditions that emphasized computational methods over proof structures.

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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Clemency Montelle
    • 1
  • Kim Plofker
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Mathematics & StatisticsUniversity of CanterburyChristchurchNew Zealand
  2. 2.Department of MathematicsUnion CollegeSchenectadyUSA

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