ALGEBRA (from the Arab. af-jebr wa'l-muqabala, transposition and removal [of terms of an equation], the name of a treatise by Mahommed ben Musa al-Khwarizmi), a branch of mathematics which may be defined as the generalization and extension of arithmetic.
The subject-matter of algebra will be treated in the following article under three divisions:--A. Principles of ordinary algebra; B. Special kinds of algebra; C. History. Special phases of the subject are treated under their own headings, e.g. ALGEBRAIC FORMS; BINOMIAL; COMBINATORIAL ANALYSIS; DETERMINANTS; EQUATION; CONTINUED FRACTION; FUNCTION; GROUPS, THEORY OF; LOGARITHM; NUMBER; PROBABILITY; SERIES.
A. PRINCIPLES OF ORDINARY ALGEBRA
1. The above definition gives only a partial view of the scope of algebra. It may be regarded as based on arithmetic, or as dealing in the first instance with formal results of the laws of arithmetical number; and in this sense Sir Isaac Newton gave the title Universal Arithmetic to a work on algebra. Any definition, however, must have reference to the state of development of the subject at the time when the definition is given.
2. The earliest algebra consists in the solution of equations. The distinction between algebraical and arithmetical reasoning then lies mainly in the fact that the former is in a more condensed form than the latter; an unknown quantity being represented by a special symbol, and other symbols being used as a kind of shorthand for verbal expressions. This form of algebra was extensively studied in ancient Egypt; but, in accordance with the practical tendency of the Egyptian mind, the study consisted largely in the treatment of particular cases, very few general rules being obtained.
3. For many centuries algebra was confined almost entirely to the solution of equations; one of the most important steps being the enunciation by Diophantus of Alexandria of the laws governing the use of the minus sign. The knowledge of these laws, however, does not imply the existence of a conception of negative quantities. The development of symbolic algebra by the use of general symbols to denote numbers is due to Franciscus Vieta (Francois Viete, 1540-1603).This led to the idea of algebra as generalized arithmetic.
4. The principal step in the modern development of algebra was the recognition of the meaning of negative quantities. This appears to have been due in the first instance to Albert Girard (1595-1632), who extended Vieta's results in various branches of mathematics. His work, however, was little known at the time, and later was overshadowed by the greater work of Descartes (1596-1650).
5. The main work of Descartes, so far as algebra was concerned, was the establishment of a relation between arithmetical and geometrical measurement. This involved not only the geometrical interpretation of negative quantities, but also the idea of continuity; this latter, which is the basis of modern analysis, leading to two separate but allied developments, viz. the theory of the function and the theory of limits.
6. The great development of all branches of mathematics in the two centuries following Descartes has led to the term algebra being used to cover a great variety of subjects, many of which are really only ramifications of arithmetic, dealt with by algebraical methods, while others, such as the theory of numbers and the general theory of series, are outgrowths of the application of algebra to arithmetic, which involve such special ideas that they must properly be regarded as distinct subjects. Some writers have attempted unification by treating algebra as concerned with functions, and Comte accordingly defined algebra as the calculus of functions, arithmetic being regarded as the calculus of values.
7. These attempts at the unification of algebra, and its separation from other branches of mathematics, have usually been accompanied by an attempt to base it, as a deductive science, on certain fundamental laws or general rules; and this has tended to increase its difficulty. In reality, the variety of algebra corresponds to the variety of phenomena. Neither mathematics itself, nor any branch or set of branches of mathematics, can be regarded as an isolated science. While, therefore, the logical development of algebraic reasoning must depend on certain fundamental relations, it is important that in the early study of the subject these relations should be introduced gradually, and not until there is some empirical acquaintance with the phenomena with which they are concerned.
8. The extension of the range of subjects to which mathematical methods can be applied, accompanied as it is by an extension of the range of study which is useful to the ordinary worker, has led in the latter part of the 19th century to an important reaction against the specialization mentioned in the preceding paragraph. This reaction has taken the form of a return to the alliance between algebra and geometry (\S 5), on which modern analytical geometry is based; the alliance, however, being concerned with the application of graphical methods to particular cases rather than to general expressions. These applications are sometimes treated under arithmetic, sometimes under algebra; but it is more convenient to regard graphics as a separate subject, closely allied to arithmetic, algebra, mensuration and analytical geometry.
9. The association of algebra with arithmetic on the one hand, and with geometry on the other, presents difficulties, in that geometrical measurement is based essentially on the idea of continuity, while arithmetical measurement is based essentially on the idea of discontinuity; both ideas being equally matters of intuition. The difficulty first arises in elementary mensuration, where it is partly met by associating arithmetical and geometrical measurement with the cardinal and the ordinal aspects of number respectively (see ARITHMETIC.) Later, the difficulty recurs in an acute form in reference to the continuous variation of a function. Reference to a geometrical interpretation seems at first sight to throw light on the meaning of a differential coefficient; but closer analysis reveals new difficulties, due to the geometrical interpretation itself. One of the most recent developments of algebra is the algebraic theory at number, which is devised with the view of removing these difficulties. The harmony between arithmetical and geometrical measurement, which was disturbed by the Greek geometers on the discovery of irrational numbers, is restored by an unlimited supply of the causes of disturbance.
10. Two other developments of algebra are of special importance. The theory of sequences and series is sometimes treated as a part of elementary algebra; but it is more convenient to regard the simpler cases as isolated examples, leading up to the general theory. The treatment of equations of the second and higher degrees introduces imaginary and complex numbers, the theory of which is a special subject.
11. One of the most difficult questions for the teacher of algebra is the stage at which, and the extent to which, the ideas of a negative number and of continuity may be introduced. On the one hand, the modern developments of algebra began with these ideas, and particularly with the idea of a negative number. On the other hand, the lateness of occurrence of any particular mathematical idea is usually closely correlated with its intrinsic difficulty. Moreover, the ideas which are usually formed on these points at an early stage are incomplete; and, if the incompleteness of an idea is not realized, operations in which it is implied are apt to be purely formal and mechanical. What are called negative numbers in arithmetic, for instance, are not really negative numbers but negative quantities (\S 27 (i.)); and the difficulties incident to the ideas of continuity have already been pointed out.
12. In the present article, therefore, the main portions of elementary algebra are treated in one section, without reference to these ideas, which are considered generally in two separate sections. These three sections may therefore be regarded as to a certain extent concurrent. They are preceded by two sections dealing with the introduction to algebra from the arithmetical and the graphical sides, and are followed by a section dealing briefly with the developments mentioned in \S \S 9 and 10 above.
[The intermediate portion of this article is typeset in TeX and is available elsewhere.]
C. HISTORY Various derivations of the word "algebra," which is of Arabian origin, have been given by different writers. The first mention of the word is to be found in the title of a work by Mahommed ben Musa al-Khwarizmi (Hovarezmi), who flourished about the beginning of the 9th century. The full title is ilm al-jebr wa'l-muqabala, which contains the ideas of restitution and comparison, or opposition and comparison, or resolution and equation, jebr being derived from the verb jabara, to reunite, and muqabala, from gabala, to make equal. (The root jabara is also met with in the word algebrista, which means a "bone-setter," and is still in common use in Spain.) The same derivation is given by Lucas Paciolus (Luca Pacioli), who reproduces the phrase in the transliterated form alghebra e almucabala, and ascribes the invention of the art to the Arabians.
Other writers have derived the word from the Arabic particle al (the definite article), and gerber, meaning "man." Since, however, Geber happened to be the name of a celebrated Moorish philosopher who flourished in about the 11th or 12th century, it has been supposed that he was the founder of algebra, which has since perpetuated his name. The evidence of Peter Ramus (1515-1572) on this point is interesting, but he gives no authority for his singular statements. In the preface to his Arithmeticae libri duo et totidem Algebrae (1560) he says: "The name Algebra is Syriac, signifying the art or doctrine of an excellent man. For Geber, in Syriac, is a name applied to men, and is sometimes a term of honour, as master or doctor among us. There was a certain learned mathematician who sent his algebra, written in the Syriac language, to Alexander the Great, and he named it almucabala, that is, the book of dark or mysterious things, which others would rather call the doctrine of algebra. To this day the same book is in great estimation among the learned in the oriental nations, and by the Indians, who cultivate this art, it is called aljabra and alboret; though the name of the author himself is not known.,' The uncertain authority of these statements, and the plausibility of the preceding explanation, have caused philologists to accept the derivation from al and jabara. Robert Recorde in his Whetstone of Witte (1557) uses the variant algeber, while John Dee (1527-1608) affirms that algiebar, and not algebra, is the correct form, and appeals to the authority of the Arabian Avicenna.
Although the term "algebra" is now in universal use, various other appellations were used by the Italian mathematicians during the Renaissance. Thus we find Paciolus calling it l'Arte Magiore; ditta dal vulgo la Regula de la Cosa over Alghebra e Almucabala. The name l'arte magiore, the greater art, is designed to distinguish it from l'arte minore, the lesser art, a term which he applied to the modern arithmetic. His second variant, la regula de la cosa, the rule of the thing or unknown quantity, appears to have been in common use in Italy, and the word cosa was preserved for several centuries in the forms coss or algebra, cossic or algebraic, cossist or algebraist, etc. Other Italian writers termed it the Regula rei et census, the rule of the thing and the product, or the root and the square. The principle underlying this expression is probably to be found in the fact that it measured the limits of their attainments in algebra, for they were unable to solve equations of a higher degree than the quadratic or square.
Franciscus Vieta (Francois Viete) named it Specious Arithmetic, on account of the species of the quantities involved, which he represented symbolically by the various letters of the alphabet. Sir Isaac Newton introduced the term Universal Arithmetic, since it is concerned with the doctrine of operations, not affected on numbers, but on general symbols.
Notwithstanding these and other idiosyncratic appellations, European mathematicians have adhered to the older name, by which the subject is now universally known.
It is difficult to assign the invention of any art or science definitely to any particular age or race. The few fragmentary records, which have come down to us from past civilizations, must not be regarded as representing the totality of their knowledge, and the omission of a science or art does not necessarily imply that the science or art was unknown. It was formerly the custom to assign the invention of algebra to the Greeks, but since the decipherment of the Rhind papyrus by Eisenlohr this view has changed, for in this work there are distinct signs of an algebraic analysis. The particular problem--a heap (hau) and its seventh makes 19--is solved as we should now solve a simple equation; but Ahmes varies his methods in other similar problems. This discovery carries the invention of algebra back to about 1700 B.C., if not earlier.
It is probable that the algebra of the Egyptians was of a most rudimentary nature, for otherwise we should expect to find traces of it in the works of the Greek aeometers. of whom Thales of Miletus (640-546 B.C.) was the first. Notwithstanding the prolixity of writers and the number of the writings, all attempts at extracting an algebraic analysis from their geometrical theorems and problems have been fruitless, and it is generally conceded that their analysis was geometrical and had little or no affinity to algebra. The first extant work which approaches to a treatise on algebra is by Diophantus (q.v.), an Alexandrian mathematician, who flourished about A.D. 350. The original, which consisted of a preface and thirteen books, is now lost, but we have a Latin translation of the first six books and a fragment of another on polygonal numbers by Xylander of Augsburg (1575), and Latin and Greek translations by Gaspar Bachet de Merizac (1621-1670). Other editions have been published, of which we may mention Pierre Fermat's (1670), T. L. Heath's (1885) and P. Tannery's (1893-1895). In the preface to this work, which is dedicated to one Dionysius, Diophantus explains his notation, naming the square, cube and fourth powers, dynamis, cubus, dynamodinimus, and so on, according to the sum in the indices. The unknown he terms arithmos, the number, and in solutions he marks it by the final s; he explains the generation of powers, the rules for multiplication and division of simple quantities, but he does not treat of the addition, subtraction, multiplication and division of compound quantities. He then proceeds to discuss various artifices for the simplification of equations, giving methods which are still in common use. In the body of the work he displays considerable ingenuity in reducing his problems to simple equations, which admit either of direct solution, or fall into the class known as indeterminate equations. This latter class he discussed so assiduously that they are often known as Diophantine problems, and the methods of resolving them as the Diophantine analysis (see EQUATION, Indeterminate.) It is difficult to believe that this work of Diophantus arose spontaneously in a period of general stagnation. It is more than likely that he was indebted to earlier writers, whom he omits to mention, and whose works are now lost; nevertheless, but for this work, we should be led to assume that algebra was almost, if not entirely, unknown to the Greeks.
The Romans, who succeeded the Greeks as the chief civilized power in Europe, failed to set store on their literary and scientific treasures; mathematics was all but neglected; and beyond a few improvements in arithmetical computations, there are no material advances to be recorded.
In the chronological development of our subject we have now to turn to the Orient. Investigation of the writings of Indian mathematicians has exhibited a fundamental distinction between the Greek and Indian mind, the former being pre-eminently geometrical and speculative, the latter arithmetical and mainly practical. We find that geometry was neglected except in so far as it was of service to astronomy; trigonometry was advanced, and algebra improved far beyond the attainments of Diophantus.
The earliest Indian mathematician of whom we have certain knowledge is Aryabhatta, who flourished about the beginning of the 6th century of our era. The fame of this astronomer and mathematician rests on his work, the Aryabhattiyam, the third chapter of which is devoted to mathematics. Ganessa, an eminent astronomer, mathematician and scholiast of Bhaskara, quotes this work and makes separate mention of the cuttaca ("pulveriser"), a device for effecting the solution of indeterminate equations. Henry Thomas Colebrooke, one of the earliest modern investigators of Hindu science, presumes that the treatise of Aryabhatta extended to determinate quadratic equations, indeterminate equations of the first degree, and probably of the second. An astronomical work, called the Surya-siddhanta ("knowledge of the Sun"), of uncertain authorship and probably belonging to the 4th or 5th century, was considered of great merit by the Hindus, who ranked it only second to the work of Brahmagupta, who flourished about a century later. It is of great interest to the historical student, for it exhibits the influence of Greek science upon Indian mathematics at a period prior to Aryabhatta. After an interval of about a century, during which mathematics attained its highest level, there flourished Brahmagupta (b. A.D. 598), whose work entitled Brahma-sphuta-siddhanta ("The revised system of Brahma") contains several chapters devoted to mathematics. Of other Indian writers mention may be made of Cridhara, the author of a Ganita-sara ("Quintessence of Calculation"), and Padmanabha, the author of an algebra.
A period of mathematical stagnation then appears to have possessed the Indian mind for an interval of several centuries, for the works of the next author of any moment stand but little in advance of Brahmagupta. We refer to Bhaskara Acarya, whose work the Siddhanta-ciromani ("Diadem of anastronomical System"), written in 1150, contains two important chapters, the Lilavati ("the beautiful [science or art]") and Viga-ganita ("root-extraction"), which are given up to arithmetic and algebra.
English translations of the mathematical chapters of the Brahma-siddhanta and Siddhanta-ciromani by H. T. Colebrooke (1817), and of the Surya-siddhanta by E. Burgess, with annotations by W. D. Whitney (1860), may be consulted for details.
The question as to whether the Greeks borrowed their algebra from the Hindus or vice versa has been the subject of much discussion. There is no doubt that there was a constant traffic between Greece and India, and it is more than probable that an exchange of produce would be accompanied by a transference of ideas. Moritz Cantor suspects the influence of Diophantine methods, more particularly in the Hindu solutions of indeterminate equations, where certain technical terms are, in all probability, of Greek origin. However this may be, it is certain that the Hindu algebraists were far in advance of Diophantus. The deficiencies of the Greek symbolism were partially remedied; subtraction was denoted by placing a dot over the subtrahend; multiplication, by placing bha (an abbreviation of bhavita, the "product") after the factom; division, by placing the divisor under the dividend; and square root, by inserting ka (an abbreviation of karana, irrational) before the quantity. The unknown was called yavattavat, and if there were several, the first took this appellation, and the others were designated by the names of colours; for instance, x was denoted by ya and y by ka (from kalaka, black).
A notable improvement on the ideas of Diophantus is to be found in the fact that the Hindus recognized the existence of two roots of a quadratic equation, but the negative roots were considered to be inadequate, since no interpretation could be found for them. It is also supposed that they anticipated discoveries of the solutions of higher equations. Great advances were made in the study of indeterminate equations, a branch of analysis in which Diophantus excelled. But whereas Diophantus aimed at obtaining a single solution, the Hindus strove for a general method by which any indeterminate problem could be resolved. In this they were completely successful, for they obtained general solutions for the equations ax(+ or -)by=c, xy=ax+by+c (since rediscovered by Leonhard Euler) and cy2=ax2+b. A particular case of the last equation, namely, y2=ax2+1, sorely taxed the resources of modern algebraists. It was proposed by Pierre de Fermat to Bernhard Frenicle de Bessy, and in 1657 to all mathematicians. John Wallis and Lord Brounker jointly obtained a tedious solution which was published in 1658, and afterwards in 1668 by John Pell in his Algebra. A solution was also given by Fermat in his Relation. Although Pell had nothing to do with the solution, posterity has termed the equation Pell's Equation, or Problem, when more rightly it should be the Hindu Problem, in recognition of the mathematical attainments of the Brahmans.
Hermann Hankel has pointed out the readiness with which the Hindus passed from number to magnitude and vice versa. Although this transition from the discontinuous to continuous is not truly scientific, yet it materially augmented the development of algebra, and Hankel affirms that if we define algebra as the application of arithmetical operations to both rational and irrational numbers or magnitudes, then the Brahmans are the real inventors of algebra.
The integration of the scattered tribes of Arabia in the 7th century by the stirring religious propaganda of Mahomet was accompanied by a meteoric rise in the intellectual powers of a hitherto obscure race. The Arabs became the custodians of Indian and Greek science, whilst Europe was rent by internal dissensions. Under the rule of the Abbasids, Bagdad became the centre of scientific thought; physicians and astronomers from India and Syria flocked to their court; Greek and Indian manuscripts were translated (a work commenced by the Caliph Mamun (813-833) and ably continued by his successors); and in about a century the Arabs were placed in possession of the vast stores of Greek and Indian learning. Euclid's Elements were first translated in the reign of Harun-al-Rashid (786-809), and revised by the order of Mamun. But these translations Were regarded as imperfect, and it remained for Tobit ben Korra (836-901) to produce a satisfactory edition. Ptolemy's Almagest, the works of Apollonius, Archimedes, Diophantus and portions of the Brahmasiddhanta, were also translated. The first notable Arabian mathematician was Mahommed ben Musa al-Khwarizmi, who flourished in the reign of Mamun. His treatise on algebra and arithmetic (the latter part of which is only extant in the form of a Latin translation, discovered in 1857) contains nothing that was unknown to the Greeks and Hindus; it exhibits methods allied to those of both races, with the Greek element predominating. The part devoted to algebra has the title al-jeur wa'lmuqabala, and the arithmetic begins with "Spoken has Algoritmi," the name Khwarizmi or Hovarezmi having passed into the word Algoritmi, which has been further transformed into the more modern words algorism and algorithm, signifying a method of computing.
Tobit ben Korra (836-901), born at Harran in Mesopotamia, an accomplished linguist, mathematician and astronomer, rendered conspicuous Service by his translations of various Greek authors. His investigation of the properties of amicable numbers (q.v.) and of the problem of trisecting an angle, are of importance. The Arabians more closely resembled the Hindus than the Greeks in the choice of studies; their philosophers blended speculative dissertations with the more progressive study of medicine; their mathematicians neglected the subtleties of the conic sections and Diophantine analysis, and applied themselves more particularly to perfect the system of numerals (see NUMERAL), arithmetic and astronomy (q.v..) It thus came about that while some progress was made in algebra, the talents of the race were bestowed on astronomy and trigonometry (q.v..) Fahri des al Karbi, who flourished about the beginning of the 11th century, is the author of the most important Arabian work on algebra. He follows the methods of Diophantus; his work on indeterminate equations has no resemblance to the Indian methods, and contains nothing that cannot be gathered from Diophantus. He solved quadratic equations both geometrically and algebraically, and also equations of the form x2n+axn+b=0; he also proved certain relations between the sum of the first n natural numbers, and the sums of their squares and cubes.
Cubic equations were solved geometrically by determining the intersections of conic sections. Archimedes' problem of dividing a Sphere by a plane into two segments having a prescribed ratio, was first expressed as a cubic equation by Al Mahani, and the first solution was given by Abu Gafar al Hazin. The determination of the side of a regular heptagon which can be inscribed or circumscribed to a given circle was reduced to a more complicated equation which was first successfully resolved by Abul Gud. The method of solving equations geometrically was considerably developed by Omar Khayyam of Khorassan, who flourished in the 11th century. This author questioned the possibility of solving cubics by pure algebra, and biquadratics by geometry. His first contention was not disproved until the 15th century, but his second was disposed of by Abul Weta (940-908), who succeeded in solving the forms x4=a and x4+ax3=b.
Although the foundations of the geometrical resolution of cubic equations are to be ascribed to the Greeks (for Eutocius assigns to Menaechmus two methods of solving the equation x3=a and x3=2a3), yet the subsequent development by the Arabs must be regarded as one of their most important achievements. The Greeks had succeeded in solving an isolated example; the Arabs accomplished the general solution of numerical equations.
Considerable attention has been directed to the different styles in which the Arabian authors have treated their subject. Moritz Cantor has suggested that at one time there existed two schools, one in sympathy With the Greeks, the other with the Hindus; and that, although the writings of the latter were first studied, they were rapidly discarded for the more perspicuous Grecian methods, so that, among the later Arabian writers, the Indian methods were practically forgotten and their mathematics became essentially Greek in character.
Turning to the Arabs in the West we find the same enlightened spirit; Cordova, the capital of the Moorish empire in Spain, was as much a centre of learning as Bagdad. The earliest known Spanish mathematician is Al Madshritti (d. 1007), whose fame rests on a dissertation on amicable numbers, and on the schools which were founded by his pupils at Cordoya, Dama and Granada. Gabir ben Allah of Sevilla, commonly called Geber, was a celebrated astronomer and apparently skilled in algebra, for it has been supposed that the word "algebra', is compounded from his name.
When the Moorish empire began to wane the brilliant intellectual gifts which they had so abundantly nourished during three or four centuries became enfeebled, and after that period they failed to produce an author comparable with those of the 7th to the 11th centuries.
In Europe the decline of Rome was succeeded by a period, lasting several centuries, during which the sciences and arts were all but neglected. Political and ecclesiastical dissensions occupied the greatest intellects, and the only progress to be mcorded is in the art of computing or arithmetic, and the translation of Arabic manuscripts. The first successful attempt to revive the study of algebra in Christendom was due to Leonardo of Pisa. an Italian merchant trading in the Mediterranean. His travels and mercantile experience had led him to conclude that the Hindu methods of computing, were in advance of those then in general use, and in 1202 he published his Liber Abaci, which treats of both algebra and arithmetic. In this work, which is of great historical interest, since it was published about two centuries before the art of printing was discovered, he adopts the Arabic notation for nulnbers, and solves many problems, both arithmetical and algebraical. But it contains little that is original, and although the work created a great sensation when it was first published, the effect soon passed away, and the book was practically forgotten. Mathematics was more or less ousted from the academic curricula by the philosophical inquiries of the schoolmen, and it was only after an interval of nearly three centuries that a worthy successor to Leonardo appeared. This was Lucas Paciolus (Lucas de Burgo), a Minorite friar, who, having previously written works on algebra, arithmetic and geometry, published, in 1494, his principal work, entitled Summa de Arithmetica, Giometria, Proportioni et Proportionalita. In it he mentions many earlier writers from whom he had learnt the science, and although it contains very little that cannot be found in Leonardo's work, yet it is especially noteworthy for the systematic employment of symbols, and the manner in which it reflects the state of mathematics in Europe during this period. These works are the earliest printed books on mathematics. The renaissance of mathematics was thus effected in Italy, and it is to that country that the leading developments of the following century were due. The first difficulty to be overcome was the algebraical solution of cubic equations, the pons asinorum of the earlier mathematicians. The first step in this direction was made by Scipio Ferro (d. 1526), who solved the equation x3+ax=b. Of his discovery we know nothing except that he declared it to his pupil Antonio Marie Floridas. An imperfect solution of the equation x3+px2=q was discovered by Nicholas Tartalea (Tartaglia) in 1530, and his pride in this achievement led him into conflict with Floridas, who proclaimed his own knowledge of the form resolved by Ferro. Mutual recriminations led to a public discussion in 1535, when Tartalea completely vindicated the general applicability of his methods and exhibited the inefficiencies of that of Floridas. This contest over, Tartalea redoubled his attempts to generalize his methods, and by 1541 he possessed the means for solving any form of cubic equation. His discoveries had made him famous all over Italy, and he was earnestly solicited to publish his methods; but he abstained from doing so, saying that he intended to embody them in a treatise on algebra which he was preparing. At last he succumbed to the repeated requests of Girolamo or Geronimo Cardano, who swore that he would regard them as an inviolable secret. Cardan or Cardano, who was at that time writing his great work, the Ars Magna, could not restrain the temptation of crowning his treatise with such important discoveries, and in 1545 he broke his oath and gave to the world Tartalea's rules for solving cubic equations. Tartalea, thus robbed of his most cherished possession, was in despair. Recriminations ensued until his death in 1557, and although he sustained his claim for priority, posterity has not conceded to him the honour of his discovery, for his solution is now known as Cardan's Rule.
Cubic equations having been solved, biquadratics soon followed suit. As early as 1539 Cardan had solved certain particular cases, but it remained for his pupil, Lewis (Ludovici) Ferrari, to devise a general method. His solution, which is sometimes erroneously ascribed to Rafael Bombelh, was published in the Ars Magna. In this work, which is one of the most valuable contributions to the literature of algebra, Cardan shows that he was familiar with both real positive and negative roots of equations whelher rational or irrational, but of imaginary roots he was quite ignorant, and he admits his inability to resolve the so-called "irreducible case" (see EQUATION.) Fundamental theorems in the theory of equations are to be found in the same work. Clearer ideas of imaginary quantities and the "irreducible case" were subsequently published by Bombelli, in a work of which the dedication is dated 1572, though the book was not published until 1579.
Contemporaneously with the remarkable discoveries of the Italian mathematicians, algebra was increasing in popularity in Germany, France and England. Michael Stifel and Johann Scheubelius (Scheybl) (1494-1570) flourished in Germany, and although unacquainted with the work of Cardan and Tartalea, their writings are noteworthy for their perspicuity and the introduction of a more complete symbolism for quantities and operations. Stifel introduced the sign (+) for addition or a positive quantity, which was previously denoted by plus, piu, or the letter p. Subtraction, previously written as minus, mone or the letter m, was symbolized by the sign (-) which is still in use. The square root he denoted by (sqrt. ), whereas Paciolus, Cardan and others used the letter R.
The first treatise on algebra written in English was by Robert Recorde, who published his arithmetic in 1552, and his algebra entitled The Whetstone of Witte, which is the second part of Arithmetik, in 1557. This work, which is written in the form of a dialogue, closely resembles the works of Stifel and Scheubelius, the latter of whom he often quotes. It includes the properties of numbers; extraction of roots of arithmetical and algebraical quantities, solutions of simple and quadratic equations, and a fairly complete account of surds. He introduced the sign (=) for equality, and the terms binomial and residual. Of other writers who published works about the end of the 16th century, we may mention Jacques Peletier, or Jacobus Peletarius (De occulta parto Numerorum, quare Algebram vocant, 1558); Petrus Ramus (Arithmeticae Libri duo et totidem Algebrae, 1560), and Christoph Clavius, who wrote on algebra in 1580, though it was not published until 1608. At this time also flourished Simon Stevinus (Stevin) of Bruges, who published an arithmetic in 1585 and an algebra shortly afterwards. These works possess considerable originality, and contain many new improvements in algebraic notation; the unknown (res) is denoted by a small circle, in which he places an integer corresponding to the power. He introduced the terms multinomial, trinomial, quadrinomial, etc., and considerably simplified the notation for decimals.
About the beginning of the 17th century various mathematical works by Franciscus Vieta were published, which were afterwards collected by Franz van Schooten and republished in 1646 at Leiden. These works exhibit great originality and mark an important epoch in the history of algebra. Vieta, who does not avail himself of the discoveries of his predecessors-the negative roots of Cardan, the revised notation of Stifel and Stevin, etc.-introduced or popularized many new terms and symbols, some of which are still in use. He denotes quantities by the letters of the alphabet, retaining the vowels for the unknown and the consonants for the knowns; he introduced the vinculum and among others the terms coefficient, affirmative, negative, pure and adjected equations. He improved the methods for solving equations, and devised geometrical constructions with the aid of the conic sections. His method for determining approximate values of the roots of equations is far in advance of the Hindu method as applied by Cardan, and is identical in principle with the methods of Sir Isaac Newton and W. G. Horner.
We have next to consider the works of Albert Girard, a Flemish mathematician. This writer, after having published an edition of Stevin's works in 1625, published in 1629 at Amsterdam a small tract on algebra which shows a considerable advance on the work of Vieta. Girard is inconsistent in his notation, sometimes following Vieta, sometimes Stevin; he introduced the new symbols ff. for greater than and sec. for less than; he follows Vieta in using the plus (+) for addition, he denotes subtraction by Recorde's symbol for equality (=), and he had no sign for equality but wrote the word out. He possessed clear ideas of indices and the generation of powers, of the negative roots of equations and their geometrical interpretation, and was the first to use the term imaginary roots. He also discovered how to sum the powers of the roots of an equation.
Passing over the invention of logarithms (q.v.) by John Napier, and their development by Henry Briggs and others, the next author of moment was an Englishman, Thomas Harriot, whose algebra (Artis analyticae praxis) was published posthumously by Walter Warner in 1631. Its great merit consists in the complete notation and symbolism, which avoided the cumbersome expressions of the earlier algebraists, and reduced the art to a form closely resembling that of to-day. He follows Vieta in assigning the vowels to the unknown quantities and the consonants to the knowns, but instead of using capitals, as with Vieta, he employed the small letters; equality he denoted by Recorde's symbol, and he introduced the signs > and < for greater than and less than. His principal discovery is concerned with equations, which he showed to be derived from the continued multiplication of as many simple factors as the highest power of the unknown, and he was thus enabled to deduce relations between the coefficients and various functions of the roots. Mention may also be made of his chapter on inequalities, in which he proves that the arithmetic mean is always greater than the geometric mean.
William Oughtred, a contemporary of Harriot, published an algebra, Clavis mathematicae, simultaneously with Harriot's treatise. His notation is based on that of Vieta, but he introduced the sign X for multiplication, @ for continued proportion, :: for proportion, and denoted ratio by one dot. This last character has since been entirely restricted to multiplication, and ratio is now denoted by two dots (:). His symbols for greater than and less than (@ and @) have been completely superseded by Harriot's signs'
So far the development of algebra and geometry had been mutually independent, except for a few isolated applications of geometrical constructions to the solution of algebraical problems. Certain minds had long suspected the advairages which would accrue from the unrestricted application of algebra to geometry, but it was not until the advent of the philosopher Rene Descartes that the co-ordination was effected. In his famous Geometria (1637), which is really a treatise on the algebraic representation of geometric theorems, he founded the modern theory of analytical geometry (see GEOMETRY), and at the same time he rendered signal service to algebra, more especially in the theory of equations. His notation is based primarily on that of Harriot; but he differs from that writer in retaining the first letters of the alphabet for the known quantities and the final letters for the unknowns.
The 17th century is a famous epoch in the progress of science, and the mathematics in no way lagged behind. The discoveries of Johann Kepler and Bonaventura Cavalieri were the foundation upon which Sir Isaac Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibnitz erected that wonderful edifice, the Infinitesimal Calculus (q.v..) Many new fields were opened up, but there was still continual progress in pure algebra. Continued fractions, one of the earliest examples of which is Lord Brouncker's expression for the ratio of the circumference to the diameter of a circle (see CIRCLE), were elaborately discussed by John Wallis and Leonhard Euler; the convergency of series treated by Newton, Euler and the Bernoullis; the binomial theorem, due originally to Newton and subsequently expanded by Euler and others, was used by Joseph Louis Lagrange as the basis of his Calcul des Fonctions. Diophantine problems were revived by Gaspar Bachet, Pierre Fermat and Euler; the modern theory of numbers was founded by Fermat and developed by Euler, Lagrange and others; and the theory of probability was attacked by Blaise Pascal and Fermat, their work being subsequently expanded by James Bernoulli, Abraham de Moivre, Pierre Simon Laplace and others. The germs of the theory of determinants are to be found in the works of Leibnitz; Etienne Bezout utilized them in 1764 for expressing the result obtained by the process of elimination known by his name, and since restated by Arthur Cayley.
In recent times many mathematicians have formulated other kinds of algebras, in which the operators do not obey the laws of ordinary algebra. This study was inaugurated by George Peacock, who was one of the earliest mathematicians to recognize the symbolic character of the fundamental principles of algebra. About the same time, D. F. Gregory published a paper "on the real nature of symbolical algebra." In Germany the work of Martin Ohm (System der Mathematik, 1822) marks a step forward. Notable service was also rendered by Augustus de Morgan, who applied logical analysis to the laws of mathematics.
The geometrical interpretation of imaginary quantities had a far-reaching influence on the development of symbolic algebras. The attempts to elucidate this question by H. Kuhn (1750-1751) and Jean Robert Argand (1806) were completed by Karl Friedrich Gauss, and the formulation of various systems of vector analysis by Sir William Rowan Hamilton, Hermann Grassmann and others, followed. These algebras were essentially geometrical, and it remained, more or less, for the American mathematician Benjamin Peirce to devise systems of pure symbolic algebras; in this work he was ably seconded by his son Charles S. Peirce. In England, multiple algebra was developed by James Joseph Sylvester, who, in company with Arthur Cayley, expanded the theory of matrices, the germs of which are to be found in the writings of Hamilton (see above, under (B); and QUATERNIONS.)
The preceding summary shows the specialized nature which algebra has assumed since the 17th century. To attempt a history of the development of the various topics in this article is inappropriate, and we refer the reader to the separate articles.
REFERENCES.--The history of algebra is treated in all
historical works on mathematics in general (see MATHEMATICS:
References.) Greek algebra can be specially studied in
T. L. Heath's Diophantus. See also John Wallis, Opera
Mathematica (1693-1699), and Charles Sutton, Mathematical and
Philosophical Dictionary (1815), article "Algebra." (C. E.*)
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Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)