The Origin and Transformations of Old Babylonian Algebra
Several offhand references were made in the preceding chapters to “riddles”, to “practitioners”, and to “lay surveyors”. In order to make these considerations meaningful and fruitful, a somewhat more systematic discussion may be needed. The following applies to the situation as it looked (with a few exceptions, mostly regarding the Islamic world) until the seventeenth century, that is, to a situation where the knowledge system of a practical profession or craft was much more autonomous than today. As is well known, the relation between theoreticians’ and practitioners’ knowledge began to change in the late Renaissance, and was wholly transformed by the nineteenth-century advent of the modern engineers’ professions; in consequence, today a large part of the practitioner’s knowledge (though still far from all of it) is applied theory, which complicates the relation between the two types of knowledge without wholly abolishing their distinctive characteristics.
KeywordsIsosceles Triangle Mathematical Text Procedure Text Seed Measure Series Text
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- 431.With some changes, these reflections draw on ideas first presented coherently in [Heyrup 1990a] (slightly revised reprint in [Hoyrup 1994: 23–43]).Google Scholar
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- 434.From the German translation in [Suter 1910: 101]. The phrases “and so on” and “or more or less” refer to the existence of other variants.Google Scholar
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- 438.to find out, not without exceptional amazement of the ignorant, how many penning, creutzer, or other coin somebody possesses“, in Christoph Rudolff’s words . In the pre-Modern world, indeed, subscientific knowledge was neither ”folk“ nor ”popular“ knowledge, but a possession of the few to a significantly higher degree than scientific knowledge today.Google Scholar
- 439.There is another point in the term “sub-scientific” which I shall not pursue here, namely, that the subscientific knowledge systems have served as inspiration in the development of “scientific” mathematics.Google Scholar
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