By Laurence Chisholm Young
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Additional info for Mathematicians and Their Times: History of Mathematics and Mathematics of History
They deal with what I prefer to call the infancy of mathematics. The standard work is that of E i t z Cantor, Geschichte der Mathematik; I have a slight preference for Loria, Storia delle Matematiche, because its author is a mathematician - - a geometer reasonably well-known in his time. There are a number of other works, most of which I shall not even cite, since I intend to give of this whole period of infancy only the briefest of outlines. We can learn more, I think, from the past 200 years, with perhaps an occasional flashback.
I t i s e s s e n t i a l t o abandon our i n g r a i n e d preconceived n o t i o n s , based on even t h e most elementary a r i t h m e t i c of our t i m e s . We have t o look a t t h i n g s p u r e l y i n t h e i r h i s t o r i c a l development, absurd though i t may seem t o u s . The p a r a l l e l w i t h Law may be h e l p f u l : many t h i n g s i n Law may seem, t o a layman, absurd and t o t a l l y a t v a r i a n c e w i t h t h e most elementary p r i n c i p l e s of j u s t i c e and common s e n s e .
Why indeed t r o u b l e t o r e a d a t a l l ? O r f o r t h a t m a t t e r , t o t h i n k ? The m i r a c l e , t o my mind, i s t h a t t h e r e w a s ever a time when i t w a s n o t s o : o r t h a t man ever managed t o evolve from t h e a p e , o r the ape from t h e dead p r i m i t i v e d u s t . W e d e a l , i n such m a t t e r s , w i t h i n c r e d i b l y s m a l l p r o b a b i l i t i e s , and t h e r e f o r e n e a r m i r a c l e s . C a u s a l i t y , as i t a f f e c t s us a l l , i s of t h e same n a t u r e a s t h a t by which, of t h e m i l l i o n s of eggs l a i d by a f i s h , a v e r y few s u r v i v e t o c o n t i n u e t h e s p e c i e s .
Mathematicians and Their Times: History of Mathematics and Mathematics of History by Laurence Chisholm Young