Combinatorics: Ancient & Modern

Combinatorics: Ancient & Modern

by Robin Wilson, John J. Watkins, Ronald Graham
     
 

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Who first presented Pascal's triangle? (It was not Pascal.)
Who first presented Hamiltonian graphs? (It was not Hamilton.)
Who first presented Steiner triple systems? (It was not Steiner.)

The history of mathematics is a well-studied and vibrant area of research, with books and scholarly articles published on various aspects of the subject. Yet, the

Overview

Who first presented Pascal's triangle? (It was not Pascal.)
Who first presented Hamiltonian graphs? (It was not Hamilton.)
Who first presented Steiner triple systems? (It was not Steiner.)

The history of mathematics is a well-studied and vibrant area of research, with books and scholarly articles published on various aspects of the subject. Yet, the history of combinatorics seems to have been largely overlooked. This book goes some way to redress this and serves two main purposes: 1) it constitutes the first book-length survey of the history of combinatorics; and 2) it assembles, for the first time in a single source, researches on the history of combinatorics that would otherwise be inaccessible to the general reader.

Individual chapters have been contributed by sixteen experts. The book opens with an introduction by Donald E. Knuth to two thousand years of combinatorics. This is followed by seven chapters on early combinatorics, leading from Indian and Chinese writings on permutations to late-Renaissance publications on the arithmetical triangle. The next seven chapters trace the subsequent story, from Euler's contributions to such wide-ranging topics as partitions, polyhedra, and latin squares to the 20th century advances in combinatorial set theory, enumeration, and graph theory. The book concludes with some combinatorial reflections by the distinguished combinatorialist, Peter J. Cameron.

This book is not expected to be read from cover to cover, although it can be. Rather, it aims to serve as a valuable resource to a variety of audiences. Combinatorialists with little or no knowledge about the development of their subject will find the historical treatment stimulating. A historian of mathematics will view its assorted surveys as an encouragement for further research in combinatorics. The more general reader will discover an introduction to a fascinating and too little known subject that continues to stimulate and inspire the work of scholars today.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This fine book will surely soon become a staple of every comprehensive mathematics library, and its existence is testament enough that combinatorics has come of age as a well-defined branch of mathematics." —MAA Reviews

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199656592
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
08/24/2013
Pages:
368
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.10(d)

Meet the Author

Robin Wilson, Emeritus Professor of Pure Mathematics, The Open University, UK and a Visiting Professor in the History of Mathematics at the London School of Economics.,John J. Watkins, Emeritus Professor of Mathematics, Colorado College

Robin Wilson is an Emeritus Professor of Pure Mathematics at the Open University, Emeritus Professor of Geometry at Gresham College, London, and a former Fellow of Keble College, Oxford. He was President of the British Society for the History of Mathematics from 2012 to 2014s. He has written and edited many books on graph theory, including Introduction to Graph Theory and Four Colours Suffice, and on the history of mathematics, including Lewis Carroll in Numberland. He is involved with the popularization and communication of mathematics and its history, and was awarded a Polya prize by the Mathematical Association of America for 'outstanding expository writing'.

John J. Watkins is an Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at Colorado College, USA. He received his doctorate from the University of Kansas, specializing in commutative ring theory. His main research interest, however, has been in graph theory and he has published mainly in this area, including many papers with undergraduates as co-authors. He has written several books, including Graphs: An Introductory Approach, Across the Board: The Mathematics of Chessboard Problems, and Topics in Commutative Ring Theory, and has recently finished his latest book, Elementary Number Theory. Colorado College presented John Watkins with the 2005 Boettcher Award for Faculty Excellence.

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