Mathematics

In the Life of Ancient Egypt

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At the very outset of recorded Egyptian history we find mathematics highly developed; the design and construction of the Pyramids involved a precision of measurement impossible without considerable mathematical lore.



Ancient Egypt mathematics

Ancient Egypt Mathematics and Science


The dependence of Egyptian life upon the fluctuations of the Nile led to careful records and calculations of the rise and recession of the river; surveyors and scribes were continually remeasuring the land whose boundaries had been obliterated by the inundation, and this measuring of the land was evidently the origin of geometry.

Nearly all the ancients agreed in ascribing the invention of this science to the Egyptians.

Josephus, however, thought that Abraham had brought arithmetic from Chaldea (i.e., Mesopo¬tamia) to Egypt;105 and it is not impossible that this and other arts came to Egypt from "Ur of the Chaldees," or some other center of western Asia.

The figures used were cumbersome

  • one stroke for 1,
  • two strokes for 2, . . ,
  • nine strokes for 9,
  • a new sign for 10.
  • Two 10 signs stood for 20,
  • three 10 signs for 30,...
  • nine for 90,
  • with a new sign for 100.
  • Two 100 signs stood for 200,
  • three 100 signs for 300, . . .
  • nine for 900,
  • with a new sign for 1000.

The sign for 1,000,000 was a picture of a man striking his hands above his head, as if to express amazement that such a number should exist.

The Egyptians fell just short of the decimal system; they had no zero, and never reached the idea of expressing all numbers with ten digits: e.g., they used twenty-seven signs to write 999-187 They had fractions, but always with the numerator i; to express % they wrote l/2 -+- y.

Multiplication and division tables are as old as the Pyramids.

The oldest mathematical treatise known is the Ahmes Papyrus, dating back to 2000-1700 B.C.; but this in turn refers to mathematical writings five hundred years more ancient than itself.

It illustrates by examples the computation of the capacity of a barn or the area of a field, and passes to algebraic equations of the first degree.

Egyptian geometry measured not only the area of squares, circles and cubes, but also the cubic content of cylinders and spheres; and it arrived at 3.16 as the value of ir.

We enjoy the honor of having advanced from 3.16 to 3.1416 in four thousand years.

Ancient Egypt Mathematics history

Evidence of some mathematical knowledge, but contribution to modern arithmetics only evident in the Ptolemaic Period

  • 3200 BC. - Hieroglyphics writing and counting on stones
  • 2700 BC. - The earliest fully developed base 10 numeration system.
  • >
  • 2700 BC. - Precision Surveying in Giza pyramids a remarkable feat of engineering
  • >
  • 1800 BC. - Moscow Mathematical Papyrus, formula for volume of frustum
  • 1800 BC. - Hieratic numerals drawn on papyrus
  • 1650 BC. - Rhind Mathematical Papyrus - geometry, algebraic equations and arithmetic series
  • 1300 BC. - Berlin Mathematical Papyrus - 2nd order algebraic equations
  • 280 BC. - Ptolemaic Period, Euclid excelled in plane geometry, His most popular work, Elements, is one of the most successful textbooks in the history of mathematics. Within it, the properties of geometrical objects are deduced from a small set of axioms, thereby founding the axiomatic method of mathematics

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