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MA 330W History of Mathematics


This library guide contains resources for the course, MA 330W History of Mathematics, beginning with the Ancients.  You will find information on the most important aspects of mathematics from the beginning of recorded mathematical activity through the development of calculus.

Assignment 1

You should write a short two-page biography on your assigned individual. Include information about early education and background to include interesting information such as:

  • the cultural background (cultural differences could be due to location or time period)
  • contributions to mathematics as well as other field (major works, theorems, etc.)
  • whatever other information you have found that is of interest (anecdotes)

You must supply references on your sources as part of the intent of this exercise is for you to learn to deal with citations. Naturally this biography must be typed (12-point font, double spaced). It is expected that some students will be asked to resubmit this paper.


  • Muhammad ibn Musa Al-Khwarizmi
  • Isaac Barrow
  • Brahmagupta (7th Century)
  • Girolamo Cardano
  • Augustin-Louis Cauchy
  • Rene Descartes
  • Pierre de Fermat
  • Leonardo of Pisa (Fibonacci)
  • Johannes Kepler
  • Umar Khayyami (Khayyam)
  • John Napier
  • Blaise Pascal
  • Nicolo Tartaglia
  • Francois Viete
  • John Wallis

photo credit: 

Assignment 2

The second library assignment is designed to acquaint you with periodical literature.  You are to turn-in a short synopsis of six papers on the History of Mathematics (both words are crucial) that you have looked up and read.  Please submit this assignment via email.  Each synopsis is to contain:

• Complete bibliographic details: – author – title (in quotes) – periodical name (underlined or italics) – volume – date (in parentheses following the volume number) – pages

• A short summery of the paper

The most interesting of these will be edited and distributed to the class so write a synopsis with an eye toward encouraging your peers to read the paper.  Be honest, if the paper is boring or not well written, say so!  A typical synopsis for a journal article is as follows:

Hogan, Edward “Robert Adrain: American Mathematician,” Historia Mathematica, vol. 4 (1971), pp.157-172.  A very good, interesting biographical sketch concentration on Adrain’s publication of two journals, his teaching and his mathematics. Very easy to read.

The 6 articles are to come from at least 3 different periodicals (no books, magazines or websites) and deal with at least 3 different mathematical topics from different cultures of periods in history.  You are encouraged to find your own journals. Some of the more common journals which cover the history of mathematics include:  Bulletin of the British Society for the History of Mathematics, Archive for the History of the Exact Sciences, Isis, and Science in Context.