A History Of Mathematical Notations/Volume 1/Introduction



In this history it has been an aim to give not only the first appearance of a symbol and its origin (whenever possible), but also to indicate the competition encountered and the spread of the symbol among writers in different countries. It is the latter part of our program which has given bulk to this history.

The rise of certain symbols, their day of popularity, and their eventual decline constitute in many cases an interesting story. Our endeavor has been to do justice to obsolete and obsolescent notations, as well as to those which have survived and enjoy the favor of mathematicians of the present moment.

If the object of this history of notations were simply to present an array of facts, more or less interesting to some students of mathematics—if, in other words, this undertaking had no ulterior motive—then indeed the wisdom of preparing and publishing so large a book might be questioned. But the author believes that this history constitutes a mirror of past and present conditions in mathematics which can be made to bear on the notational problems now confronting mathematics. The successes and failures of the past will contribute to a more speedy solution of the notational problems of the present time.