Saturday, November 27, 2010

Ancient Babylonian Math

The NYTimes reports that there is an exhibit of ancient Babylonian Mathematics at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at NYU.

Most of the ancient tablets appear to be classroom exercises, yet they may show a very high degree of sophistication, predating many of the Greek insights--such as the Pythagorean theorem--by millennia (or approximately 1500 years). The newspaper article indicates that Greek thought has shaped our own mathematical thought, but that we can see that we owe a great deal more to the Babylonians than previously thought. I should also note that much of our mathematics derives from medieval arabic mathematicians as well.

The tablets from Columbia University, University of Pennsylvania, and Yale University will be on exhibit until December 17. Unfortunately, I heard about this too late to take advantage of the exhibit and will not return to NY until after the exhibit closes. But I would love to hear or read people's responses below.

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