Subscribe now

Comment and Mathematics

How the history of maths is much more diverse than you think

There is more to where maths came from than the ancient Greeks. From calculus to the theorem we credit to Pythagoras, so much of our knowledge comes from other places, including ancient China, India and the Arabian peninsula, says Kate Kitagawa

By Kate Kitagawa

30 August 2023

New Scientist Default Image

Michelle D’urbano

THE history of mathematics has an image problem. It is often presented as a meeting of minds among ancient Greeks who became masters of logic. Pythagoras, Euclid and their pals honed the tools for proving theorems and that led them to the biggest results of ancient times. Eventually, other European greats like Leonhard Euler and Isaac Newton came along and made maths modern, which is how we got to where we are today.

But, of course, this telling is greatly distorted. The history of maths is far richer, more chaotic and more diverse than it is given credit for. So…

Sign up to our weekly newsletter

Receive a weekly dose of discovery in your inbox! We'll also keep you up to date with New Scientist events and special offers.

Sign up

To continue reading, subscribe today with our introductory offers

View introductory offers

No commitment, cancel anytime*

Offer ends 28th October 2023.

*Cancel anytime within 14 days of payment to receive a refund on unserved issues.

Inclusive of applicable taxes (VAT)


Existing subscribers

Sign in to your account