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Timeline of Mathematics (mathigon.org)
204 points by activatedgeek 36 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 61 comments

Strange to have non-researchers or non-mathematicians like Lewis Carrol, Ada Lovelace, or Anna Easly included while world-impacting researchers such as Shigefumi Mori, S.T. Yau, Yuri Manin, Stefan Banach, Simon Donaldson, R. Bott, M. Morse, H. Lebesgue, O. Heaviside, J. Leray, J. Tate, E. Calabi, M. Gromov, <strike>G. Perelman</strike>, F. Adams, H. Kunneth, are left out. Where are they getting their lists of people? It seems they classify anyone famous who was "technical" as a mathematician, which is the only reason why I can think of including people like Einstein, Lewis Carroll, or Ada Lovelace (none of whom made any contribution to math) as mathematicians, but leaving out those who made major advances.

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson a.k.a. Lewis Carrol was a mathematician and he published enough original mathematical research.

Of course, he is much more famous as a fiction writer than as a mathematician and it can be easily argued that much more important mathematicians (e.g. Grassmann & Clifford and many others) are missing from that timeline, but he certainly cannot be considered as a non-mathematician.

It looks like they were trying to meet a dual quota of non-white, non-male people.

(Also, Yau is there.)

Ah yes, famous non-white females Albert Einstein and Lewis Carrol.

Yeah and famous white males Nightingale and Katherine Johnson.

It’s hard to imagine any finite list like this that doesn’t attract people complaining that their favorite figures were left out.

It’s not so much about who was left out, but rather about who was put in. Some of the people on the list had pretty much zero impact on mathematics.

these figures give context to the average reader

As an average reader, I'd rather not be mislead on

Perelman is right there in the opening frame when I look. Maybe you just missed some of those people.

Thanks I did miss Perelman. I don't think I missed others.

Unfortunately, you did as others have to repeatedly pointed out

Some names are complete nonsense: why is Benjamin Banneker there for building a mechanical clock in the 1800s (when such things were already everywhere) while Phillip Hahn (who build a four-operation mechanical calculator) in the 1700s is not?

They added Katherine Johnson who developed no new theories or applications on Math or Computer Science, but left Margaret Hamilton out (and she was the pioneer and creator of an entire new field!)

Personally I believe including Ada is actually a disservice. If I were female I would think wait what? Female accomplishments were so low that with that you already enter the hall of fame? I know the intention is in the other direction, but maybe it's just me overthinking stuff.

Absolutely agree with you here, it's effectively positive discrimination and really a rather distasteful attempt at it.

Always bothers me the same happens in Civilization games with scientist lists.

You're kinda making my point. None of these are actually contributions to mathematical research. A computer program is not mathematical research, nor are field equations in physics. Which is not to say that they are not noteworthy achievements, but it is to say that they are not achievements in mathematics. These three made contributions in other fields. I am not saying they don't deserve fame in the fields of physics or computer science or literature. They certainly do. But they deserve no fame in the field of mathematics, anymore than Morse deserves fame in the field of computer science, or Gromov deserves fame in the field of literature (but he did write books!). The only person in your list of three who could even be called a mathematician was Dodgson, but his contributions are not considered noteworthy enough to make any kind of timeline.

I have to disagree on Einstein, without the field equations it's doubtful psuedo-Riemannian geometry or so-called "Einstein manifolds" would be so big in math. There is also his work on Brownian motion and diffusion. Even if you deny he did "mathematical research" his importance for mathematics justifies him being on a timeline of mathematics .. imho

You can argue that Einstein spurred interest in Geometry, but he himself made no contributions to this field. In fact it was pretty famous that he kept bugging Ricci to help him frame his ideas in mathematical terms. Einstein was a physicist through and through, and not even a mathematical physicist. Now someone like Ed Witten is a completely different beast.

Did computer science as a field exist in Lady Ada's time? No, it did not. And where did computing science get its formal beginnings? In mathematics departments.

I guess I just have an inclusionist mindset with these matters. Popularizers, esotericists, eccentrics, early pioneers of new thought-tech, and people in closely associated fields should at least be considered in projects like this. Contributing to mathematics culture seems important to me, not just contributing to mathematics achievements.

> "And where did computing science get its formal beginnings? In mathematics departments."

Citation needed. You might be able to argue that it had its beginning in EE departments, but CS as a field did not spring from math at all. Seriously there is a difference between formalizing something in mathematical language - which happens to almost every technical field - and having that formalization be considered an advancement in math itself. This is exactly my point about throwing everyone "technical" into the mix. After all, the formalization of chemistry requires lots of math, so Marie Curie must be on the list of mathematicians, too!

> Dodgson, but his contributions are not considered noteworthy enough to make any kind of timeline.

By whom? Obviously the poster did. Lots of people think of him in connection with his work in logic, which isn't research-level, but I think of him in the context of, e.g., https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dodgson_condensation , which to my somewhat amateurish knowledge of the subject was a research-level contribution for its time.

> None of these are actually contributions to mathematical research

So what? The site is a Timeline of Mathematics, not a Timeline of Mathematical Research. Surely notable new applications of mathematics belong on the timeline, regardless of whether they involved new research or not.


Please stop taking HN threads into flamewar.


I didn't mean to flame, just calling it as I see it. That said your house your rules thank you for the guidance.


>Einstein is probably the most famous fraud of the 20th century. Strange how many people don’t realize he plagiarized his own wife.

Could you provide a source on this? DDG only shows youtube videos and conspiracy websites when searching.

Using a query like [Einstein fraud] or whatever is going to get you crap results. Try something like [Mileva Marić] instead to get results from mainstream sources like SA[1]. And obviously those sources aren't going to throw words like "fraud" around, but you don't even have to read between the lines to see my claim is plausible if not entirely justified. It's yet more evidence that women in STEM have been erased by men taking credit for their work.

[1] https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/the-forgotte...

> Daubechies studied different types of wavelets, which are now an essential part of image compression formats like JPEG.

Minor correction but the discrete wavelet transform based on Daubechies' work is used in JPEG2000, not JPEG, which uses the discrete cosine transform (other codecs generally use related integer approximations). JPEG2000 never managed to gain much popularity outside of digital cinema (e.g. Red RAW, Cineform, and I believe delivery codecs for cinemas). Which is a shame, given that wavelets have superior properties for multi-resolution decomposition.

JPEG-2000 and another wavelet-based codec MrSID https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MrSID are used for archival storage of high-resolution scans, e.g. by the Library of Congress http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/help/compression.html

JPEG has the big advantages that it is built in to web browsers, can be decoded effectively on less powerful hardware, and is “good enough” for most typical uses.

Quite relevant here:

> Al-Khwarizmi also worked in astronomy and geography, and the word “algorithm” is named after him.

Ah and also, gave name to the word algebra

I was somewhat disappointed to find a timeline of mathematicians instead of a smart way to capture the evolution of mathematics.

Pretty design for what it does, though!

I understand the difficulty of the exercice and hopefully more people can be added i was for example surprised to see some names who had minor contributions while so many missing like https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Kingdon_Clifford

Pay close attention to the x axis because the scale here is highly misleading.

The width of 100 years looks like it might be different each century.

I think it was done "right". The longer ago you go the less robust our documentation of it so compressing sparse records to make it more navigable is way more usable than vast swaths of empty pages of scrolling.

I also appreciate how they aren't really connected to each other to suggest a linear timeline of events. Nobody had infinite comprehension of all historical knowledge and simply hoisted themselves upon the shoulders of everything that came before.

Reality is super messy. Almost as messy as a jumble of people on a screen

Some missing names... al-Tusi, Poisson, Dirichlet, Weierstrass, Bessel.

Minkowski is another huge one.

Claude Shanon

Shannon is already present in the timeline.

Very cool. What do the different colors for the dots refer to though?

Looking at the CSS classes, it references the procedence of the mathematician: (North) America is green, Middle East orange, Asia red, and so on. Tao is the only blue: he is from Oceania (Australia.)

Some missing Indian names:

Budhayana 800 BCE [1][2]

Mahaviracharya 9 CE [3]

Actually Wikipedia has a list of Indian Mathematician from which I see many names are not in this page [4]


[1] https://mathshistory.st-andrews.ac.uk/Biographies/Baudhayana...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baudhayana_sutras

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mah%C4%81v%C4%ABra_(mathematic...

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Indian_mathematicians

A timeline of mathematical innovations would also be interesting.

One amazing thing to me is how you can go from the beginnings of calculus to today in only five jumps from mathematicians who were alive at the same time, e.g.

Newton — Euler — Gauss — Poincaré — Turing — Yau

An old C. F. Gauss could have met baby Henri Poincaré, yet in my mind they live in completely different universes.

I like this visualization. There is an Android app called History Timeline which has a similar concept but a much broader scope, and links to Wikipedia articles. I think it is a great way to explore history and see when similar events occurred that are not usually talked about in same context.

This site is amazing. I love it. As a side project, while teaching my kids, I have been building a site for using python for maths for the same target audience (10 - 16 year olds). I plan on continuing to add to it as I give 1-to-1 support to my kids.

Having started on the project for about a month now, I have an appreciation for the amount of care that has gone into that the mathigon site.

Kudos to them for providing such a high quality free resource for building passion and education in maths.

In relation to people commenting that some names are missing and some are not specifically mathematicians etc. It doesn't matter - the project is ongoing, the learning resources have plenty that are still in construction - and any name mentioned sits somewhere in the realm of math interest.

It is a great site. Very polished.

It can be known, but it's quite crazy how in the western world since the Greek period to the Renaissance, there was basically no big impact on the theoretical side (at least).

Then the banks (and so some Italians) arrived and it all got more relevant.

> and so some Italians

Selling the Bernoulli clan a bit short here.

The Bernoullis were Swiss (and Dutch and Belgian, depending on how you want to count it.)

Not counting him of course. But since banks were started mostly there...

Hum, the very first entry I searched for—Gregorio Ricci-Curbastro—wasn't there! Remember Ricci curvature is crucial mathematics in Einstein's Field Equations so Ricci-Curbastro ought to be there: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ricci_curvature.

This all looks very pretty and it's likely useful for teaching but it begs the question of how good the input data is. The old adage about garbage in, garbage out is true no matter the source.


I wish they would add some of the arab mathematicians

algebra is an arabic word


They did. Check again.

Awesome, just went down a rabbit hole after clicking on Thales of Miletus. Really nice site explaining the basics of geometry.

Unfortunately I quickly got to some "COMING SOON" sections

Taking the countries of origin of the mathematicians chosen here as a proxy for the amount of "mathematics done" in each region shows a few patterns.

Notably the explosion of math in Europe from the 1500s.

I wonder if the printing revolution had something to do with this.

Gutenberg died in ~ 1470

Great visualization! I'm just finishing reading the book on prime numbers, titled "the music of the primes" and this visualization reminds me how I wish Riemann lived a little bit longer.

And where is Ramanujan???

its there, search for ramanujan or look at bottom starting of 1900

The most important names are actually missing.

its must be there, search for the names, the tiles must have been collapsed

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