The Mathematician, the Historian, and the History of Mathematics

Document Type



Mathematics (Pitzer)

Publication Date



Historian, Mathematician, History


The historian's basic questions, whether he is a historian of mathematics or of political institutions, are: what was the past like? and how did the present come to be? The second question --how did the present come to be?-- is the central one in the history of mathematics, whether done by historian or mathematician. But the historian's view of both past and present is quite different from that of the mathematician. The historian is interested in the past in its full richness, and sees any present fact as conditioned by a complex chain of causes in an almost unlimited past. The mathematician instead is oriented toward the present, and toward past mathematics chiefly insofar as it led to important present mathematics.

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© 1975 Academic Press, Inc.