Co-produced by the BBC and presented by Oxford professor Marcus du Sautoy, “The Story of Maths” covers such subjects as the invention of zero and the Riemann hypothesis, the contributions of great mathematicians including Pythagoras, Plato, and Euclid, and some of the biggest unsolved problems that confronted math scholars in the 20th century. Also, du Sautoy examines vital mathematical ideas and their influence on today’s science, technology, and culture.
By the 17th century, Europe had taken over from the Middle East as the world’s powerhouse of mathematical ideas. Great strides had been made in understanding the geometry of objects fixed in time and space. The race was now on to discover the mathematics to describe objects in motion. Marcus explores the work of Rene Descartes and Pierre Fermat, whose famous Last Theorem would puzzle mathematicians for more than 350 years. He also examines Isaac Newton’s development of calculus. He searches for Leonard Euler, the father of topology or ‘bendy geometry,’ and Carl Friedrich Gauss. At the age of 24, he was responsible for inventing a new way of handling equations – modular arithmetic.
After showing how fundamental mathematics is to our lives, Marcus du Sautoy explores the mathematics of ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Greece. In Egypt, he uncovers the use of a decimal system based on ten fingers of the hand. Simultaneously, in former Mesopotamia, he discovers that the way we tell the time today is based on the Babylonian Base 60 number system. In Greece, he looks at the contributions of some of the giants of mathematics, including Plato, Euclid, Archimedes, and Pythagoras, credited with beginning the transformation of mathematics from a tool for counting into the analytical subject we know today.
In India Marcus du Sautoy discovers how the symbol for the number zero was invented and in the Middle East he looks at the invention of the new language of algebra and the spread of Eastern knowledge to the West.
This program traces the development of mathematics in the Mediterranean region, beginning with the Egyptians through the Greeks’ formalized geometry. Along the way, a few remarkable methods emerged that predated formal mathematical methods by a thousand years.