**1792.**
Third U.S. president Thomas Jefferson in 1792 (when he was Secretary
of State): "Comparing them by their faculties of memory,
reason, and imagination, it appears to me that in memory [the
Negro] are equal to the whites; in reason much inferior, as I
think one could scarcely be found capable of tracing and comprehending
the investigations of Euclid; and that in imagination they are
dull, tasteless, and anomalous." Present day AND ancient
achievements contradict such statments. In response, these web
page have been created to exhibit accomplishments of the peoples
of Africa and the African Diaspora within the Mathematical Sciences.

**1908.** Mathematics Historian **W. Rouse Ball**:
The history of mathematics cannot with certainty be traced back
to any school or period before that of the ... Greeks.

**1953.** Mathematician **Morris
Kline**: [The Egyptians] barely recognized mathematics as
a distinct discipline ... [Mathematics] finally secured a new
grip on life in the highly congenial soil of Greece and waxed
strongly for a short period . . . With the decline of Greek civilization
the plant remained dormant for a thousand years . . . when he
plant was transported to Europe proper and once more imbedded
in fertile soil. [Also see *Mathematical Thought from Ancient
to Modern Times,* Oxford University Press, 1972)]

All three statements above are samples of eurocentric egoism
in the history of mathematics. Though Jefferson apparently changed
is attitutude, somewhat, after contact with **Benjamin
Banneker** (see his **twelve
page letter**). Rouse simply ignored, or was ingnorant of,
the ** Sulbasutras **(~800 BC), already known to European
mathematicians of his time. Kline, on the other hand, certainly
ignored or dismissed research outside of mathematic's historians

A supposed key to the Egyptian's inferior mathematics is that
they had no concept of zero. This is **absolutely
false**. The concept was even more
than just a "blank space"
to indicate a zero.

Another commonly expressed eurocentric view is that before
the Greeks, there was no mathematics in the sense of the characteristic
intellectual activity which goes under the name today. The argument
goes: pre-Greek mathematics had neither a well-defined idea of
*proof *nor any perception of the need for a proof. Where
the Egyptians were involved in these activities which could be
described as "mathematics," these activities were purely
utilitarian, such as the construction of calendars, parcelling
out lands, administration of harvests, organization of pubblic
works (e.g., irrigation or flood control), or collection of taxes.
Empirical rules were devised to help undertake these activities,
but there remains no evidence of any overt concern with abstraction
and proofs which form the core of mathematics. We contend something different.

Purely Eurocentric origins of mathematics can no longer be upheld. The oldest (35,000 BC) mathematical object was found in Swaziland. The oldest example of arithmetic (6000 BC) was found in Zaire.The 4000 year old, so-called Moscow papyrus, contains geometry, from the Middle Kingdom of Egypt, the consequence of the formula for the volume of a truncated square pyramid. From Herodotus (~450 BC) to Proclus (~400 BC) to Aristotle (~350 BC), Egypt was the cradle of mathematics (astronomy and surveying too). From the earliest, the great Greek mathematicians, including Pythagoras (~500 BC), Thales (~530 BC), and Exodus (the teacher of Aristotle) all learned much of their mathematics from Egypt (Mesopotamia, and possibily India) - even the concept of zero.

It is true that a zero placeholder
was not used (or needed) in the Egyptian hieroglyphic or hieratic
numerals because these numerals did not have positional value.
But **the
zero concept has many other applications**.

Generalizations about the area of a circle or the volume of a truncated square pyramid are most evident in Egyptian mathematics. Checking the correctness of a division by a subsequent multiplication or verifying the solutions of different types of equation by the method of substitution are found from a time before the Greeks "existed." A method, in common use in Europe until the 19th century, for solving linear equations is generally known as the method of false position. This method was in common use to solve practical practical problems such as finding the potency of beer or optimal feed mixtures for cattle and poultry in Egyptian mathematics.

A century before U.S. slavery was ended, slaves and even ordinary African slave traders demonstrated mathematical abilities more sophisticated than the European buyers.

Some 250 years prior to Newton and Liebnitz, a 15th century
Indian mathematician, Madhava
of Kerala, derived infinite series forand for
some trigonometric functions. Here we limit
to Africa our discussions of **ancient
mathematics**, and will not discuss the extremely significant
results due to Indian, Chinese, Babylonian, South American and
other non-European groups.

**Debate
on the Relationship between Egyptian and Greek mathematics**

**the method of false position**:
to solve x - x/3 = 14, one could guess x=3 (especially since 3
divides 3). But this obviously yields 3 - 3/3 = 2 = 14/7. So try
7*3 or x = 21.

Mathematicians of the African Diaspora

**visitors** since opening 5/25/97

These web pages are brought to
you by

The
Mathematics Department of

The State University of New York at Buffalo.

**These web pages are created
and maintained by
Dr. Scott W. Williams
Professor of Mathematics**

**
**http://www.math.buffalo.edu/mad/myths_lies.html

©bonvibre&daughters 7/29/97