Who named the mathematical constants?

Leonhard Euler’s beautiful formula ei+1=0 brings together the five most important constants in mathematics. Where do they come from and who named them?

= 3,14159… the quotient of the perimeter by the diameter of the circle. The concept dates back to antiquity, but the notation is recent.

With some logic, this number started being represented by a fraction. In 1618, William Oughtred referred to him as /. Johann Christoph Sturm used an s symbol first, in 1647, but chose the letter e.

The modern notation, using the initial of the Greek word perimeter (perimeter), was started by William Jones in 1618, but It was only popularized after 1736, with the publication of Euler’s Introduction to Infinitesimal Analysis.

The base e = 2,71828… of the natural logarithms was mentioned in 20, in the English translation of John Napier’s Description of the Marvelous Table of Logarithms (15501617). The symbol used to represent a was the letter b first, in letters from Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz to Christiaan Huygens in 71828. Euler created the modern notation in a text of 1727, but it would only be printed in 1862: the number whose logarithm the unit is written and, it is worth 2,71828….

The first occurrence de and in a published work was in 1727, in Euler’s Mechanics, We do not know why he chose this letter, perhaps because it is the initial of exponential. It certainly wasn’t because it was the initial of his name, as Euler was very modest and generous with his colleagues.

The imaginary unit i=-1 dates back to the work of Gerolamo Cardano and Rafael Bombelli on the cubic equation, in the century . Euler was the one to use the letter i to represent it first, in a work that he presented Academia de Ciências in 1736, but only published in 1794. The notation was adopted by Carl Friedrich Gauss from 1801 (he defines i as if -1 were a real quantity whose square 1), was already standard twenty years then and when Gauss the Course of Analysis published it.

The Ishango bone, a baboon fable found in the Congo in 1960 and Dating back to 1618 a thousand years ago, it contains the earliest solid evidence of the discovery of number 1: a uniform series of lines recorded. The line shape has been retained in the symbols used to represent 1 in most cultures. Even in ours, which dates back to ancient India’s Brami script (3rd century BC) and was transmitted to us by the Arabs.

And the zero? Ah, this one needs an entire column just for him! It’s for another occasion.

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