Thursday, April 6, 2000

8:00 p.m., NR 101

Victor J. Katz

Professor of Mathematics
University of the District of Columbia
"Islam: The Vital Bridge Between Classical and Renaissance Mathematics"

It is often thought that the sole contribution of the medieval Islamic civilization to modern mathematics and science was its preservation of the legacy of the Greeks during the Dark Ages in Europe until  Europeans could again appreciate its value.  Recent research in archives both in Europe and the Islamic world have begun to change this perception.  Not only did Islamic scientists and mathematicians preserve and protect the Greek heritage, but they developed it further in numerous areas and began the development of entirely new areas of mathematics.  Although not all of the Islamic material was transmitted to Europe during the late Medieval period, enough of it was, by Islamic and Jewish scientists as well as some of their Christian counterparts, to influence strongly the developments in mathematics and science in the Renaissance and beyond.

Special Mathematics Colloquium

Combinatorics: From Counting Words to Mathematical Induction

Thursday, April 6, 2000
4:00 p.m.
Room SH 117
Pre-colloquium tea and reception at 3:30 outside Library 56.

Although the earliest ideas of combinatorics -- the ideas of permutations and combinations -- come from ancient India, it was not until medieval times that Jewish and Islamic scientists developed these ideas in detail.  In working out the basic formulas, the mathematicians were led to consider various ideas of proof, including the idea of mathematical induction. We will look at the contributions of some of these mathematicians and see how their ideas finally spread to western Europe during the Renaissance.

Victor Katz is a professor of mathematics at the University of the District of Columbia.  He is the author of A History of Mathematics: An Introduction as well as many articles dealing with the history of mathematics and, especially, the use of history in the teaching of mathematics.  He has directed the Institute in the History of Mathematics and Its Use in Teaching, an NSF-supported project which has involved numerous college faculty in the history of mathematics and has also begun the production of modules using history to teach various pieces of the high school mathematics curriculum.  He is also the editor of "Using History to Teach Mathematics: An International Perspective", soon to be published in the MAA Notes Series.