This book is about James Gregory’s attempt to prove that the quadrature of the circle, the ellipse and the hyperbola cannot be found algebraically. Additonally, the subsequent debates that ensued between Gregory, Christiaan Huygens and G.W. Leibniz are presented and analyzed. These debates eventually culminated with the impossibility result that Leibniz appended to his unpublished treatise on the arithmetical quadrature of the circle.The author shows how the controversy around the possibility of solving the quadrature of the circle by certain means (algebraic curves) pointed to metamathematical issues, particularly to the completeness of algebra with respect to geometry. In other words, the question underlying the debate on the solvability of the circle-squaring problem may be thus phrased: can finite polynomial equations describe any geometrical quantity? As the study reveals, this question was central in the early days of calculus, when transcendental quantities and operations entered the stage. Undergraduate and graduate students in the history of science, in philosophy and in mathematics will find this book appealing as well as mathematicians and historians with broad interests in the history of mathematics.
Trudeau writes in a lively, entertaining, and highly accessible style. His book provides one of the most stimulating and personal presentations of a struggle with the nature of truth in mathematics and the physical world.
A portion of the book won the Pólya Prize, a distinguished award from the Mathematical Association of America.
These efforts do not lead to the stabilization of a mathematical theory (with principles or axioms, theorems respecting these first statements, followed by applications to a set of geometric situations), one must nevertheless admire the magnitude of the results obtained by these methods and highlights the rich relationships between them and integral calculus.
The present book aims to be exhaustive since it analyzes the works of all major inventors of methods of indivisibles during the seventeenth century, from Kepler to Leibniz. It takes into account the rich existing literature usually devoted to a single author. This book results from the joint work of a team of specialists able to browse through this entire important episode in the history of mathematics and to comment it.
The list of authors involved in indivisibles ́ field is probably sufficient to realize the richness of this attempt; one meets Kepler, Cavalieri, Galileo, Torricelli, Gregoire de Saint Vincent, Descartes, Roberval, Pascal, Tacquet, Lalouvère, Guldin, Barrow, Mengoli, Wallis, Leibniz, Newton.