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.
Combinatorics: From Counting Words to Mathematical Induction
Thursday, April 6, 2000
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.