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Science History Podcast

May 11, 2021

The most important book in the history of mathematics is Euclid’s Elements. The book – really 13 short books bound together into a single treatise – dates to approximately 300 BC, and is credited to the Greek mathematician Euclid of Alexandria. It is apparently a compendium and expansion of the work of previous Greek mathematicians, such as Pythagoras, Hippocrates of Chios, and Eudoxus of Cnidus. The Elements is the oldest surviving logical treatment of mathematics as a discipline, and its theorems and constructions are central to the history of scientific discovery and logic. It is likely that only the Bible has been issued in more editions than the Elements since the invention of the printing press. With us to discuss the Elements, and its importance to the development of geometry, is David Acheson. David completed his bachelor’s degree in math and physics at Kings College, London, in 1967, and his Ph.D. in math at the University of East Anglia in 1971. He then held a variety of academic positions and became a Fellow in Mathematics at Jesus College, Oxford in 1977. In addition to his academic and textbook writing, David has written about mathematics for the public, including his books From Calculus to Chaos, published in 1997, 1089 and All That, published in 2002, The Calculus Story, published in 2017, and The Wonder Book of Geometry, published 2020, all by Oxford University Press.