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More About This Textbook
Overview
In writing the first booklength study of ancient Egyptian mathematics, Richard
Gillings presents evidence that Egyptian achievements in this area are much more substantial than has been previously thought. He does so in a way that will interest not only historians of Egypt and of mathematics, but also people who simply like to manipulate numbers in novel ways. He examines all the extant sources, with particular attention to the most extensive of thesethe Rhind Mathematical
Papyrus, a collection of training exercises for scribes. This papyrus, besides dealing with the practical, commercial computations for which the Egyptians developed their mathematics, also includes a series of abstract numerical problems stated in a more general fashion.The mathematical operations used were extremely limited in number but were adaptable to a great many applications.
The Egyptian number system was decimal, with digits sequentially arranged (much like our own, but reading right to left), allowing them to add and subtract with ease. They could multiply any number by two, and to accomplish more extended multiplications made use of a binary process, successively multiplying results by two and adding those partial products that led to the correct result.
Division was done in a similar way. They could fully manipulate fractions, even though all of them
(with one exception) were expressed in the unwieldy form of sumes of unit fractionsthose having
"1" as their numerator. (The exception was 2/3. The scribes recognized this as a very special quantity and took 2/3 of integral or fractional numbers whenever the change presented itself in the course of computation.) In expressing a rational quantity as a series of unit fractions, the scribes were generally able to choose a simple and direct solution from among the manysometimes thousandsthat are possible. Doing this without modern computers would seem quite as remarkable as building pyramids without modern machinery.The range of mathematical problems that were solved using these limited operational means is far wider than many historians of mathematics acknowledge.
Gillings gives examples showing that the Egyptians were able, for example, to solve problems in direct and inverse proportion; to evaluate certain square roots; to introduce the concept of a
"harmonic mean" between two numbers; to solve linear equations of the first degree, and two simultaneous equations, one of the second degree; to find the sum of terms of arithmetic and geometric progressions; to calculate the area of a circle and of cylindrical (possibly even spherical) surfaces; to calculate the volumes of truncated pyramids and cylindrical granaries; and to make use of rudimentary trigonometric functions in describing the slopes of pyramids. The
Egyptian accomplishment that historians have tended to repeat uncritically, one after another, is one that Gillings can find no evidence to support: that the Egyptians knew the Pythagorean theorem,
at least in the special case of the 345 right triangle.
The MIT Press
Product Details
Table of Contents
Introduction
Hieroglyphic and Hieratic Writing and Numbers
The Four Arithmetic Operations
ADDITION AND SUBTRACTION
MULTIPLICATION
DIVISION
FRACTIONS
The TwoThirds Table for Fractions
PROBLEMS 61 AND 61B OF THE RHIND MATHEMATICAL PAPYRUS
TWOTHIRDS OF AN EVEN FRACTION
AN EXTENSION OF RMP 61B AS THE SCRIBE MAY HAVE DONE IT
EXAMPLES FROM THE RHIND MATHEMATICAL PAPYRUS OF THE TWOTHIRDS TABLE
The G Rule in Egyptian Arithmetic
FURTHER EXTENSIONS OF THE G RULE
The Recto of the Rhind Mathematical Papyrus
THE DIVISION OF 2 BY THE ODD NUMBERS 3 TO 101
CONCERNING PRIMES
FURTHER COMPARISONS OF THE SCRIBE'S AND THE COMPUTERS DECOMPOSITIONS
The Recto Continued
EVEN NUMBERS IN THE RECTO: 2 ÷ 13
MULTIPLES OF DIVISORS IN THE RECTO
TWO DIVIDED BY THIRTYFIVE: THE SCRIBE DISCLOSES HIS METHOD
Problems in Completion and the Red Auxiliaries
USE OF THE RED AUXILIARIES OR REFERENCE NUMBERS
AN INTERESTING OSTRACON
The Egyptian Mathematical Leather Roll
THE FIRST GROUP
THE SECOND GROUP
THE THIRD GROUP
THE FOURTH GROUP
THE NUMBER SEVEN
LINE 10 OF THE FOURTH GROUP
THE FIFTH GROUP
UnitFraction Tables
UNITFRACTION TABLES OF THE RHIND MATHEMATICAL PAPYRUS
PROBLEMS 7 TO 20 OF THE RHIND MATHEMATICAL PAPYRUS
Problems of Equitable Distribution and Accurate Measurement
DIVISION OF THE NUMBERS 1 TO 9 BY 10
CUTTING UP OF LOAVES
SALARY DISTRIBUTION FOR THE PERSONNEL OF THE TEMPLE OF ILLAHUN
Pesu Problems
EXCHANGE OF LOAVES OF DIFFERENT PESUS
Area and Volumes
THE AREA OF A RECTANGLE
THE AREA OF A TRIANGLE
THE AREA OF A CIRCLE
THE VOLUME OF A CYLINDRICAL GRANARY
THE DETAILS OF KAHUN IV
Equations of the First and Second Degree
THE FIRST GROUP
SIMILAR PROBLEMS FROM OTHER PAPYRI
THE SECOND AND THIRD GROUPS
EQUATIONS OF THE SECOND DEGREE
KAHUN LV
"SUGGESTED RESTORATION OF MISSING LINES OF KAHUN LV 4, AND MODERNIZATION OF OTHERS"
Geometric and Arithmetic Progressions
GEOMETRIC PROGRESSIONS: PROBLEM 79 OF THE RHIND MATHEMATICAL PAPYRUS
ARITHMETIC PROGRESSIONS: PROBLEM 40 OF THE RHIND MATHEMATICAL PAPYRUS
KAHUN IV
"Think of a Number" Problems"
PROBLEM 28 OF THE RHIND MATHEMATICAL PAPYRUS
PROBLEM 29 OF THE RHIND MATHEMATICAL PAPYRUS
Pyramids and Truncated Pyramids
THE SEKED OF A PYRAMID
THE VOLUME OF A TRUNCATED PYRAMID
The Area of a Semicylinder and the Area of a Hemisphere
Fractions of a Hekat
Egyptian Weights and Measures
Squares and Square Roots
The Reisner Papyri: The Superficial Cubit and Scales of Notation
APPENDIX 1
The Nature of Proof
APPENDIX 2
The Egyptian Calendar
APPENDIX 3
Great Pyramid Mysticism
APPENDIX 4
"Regarding Morris Kline's Views in Mathematics, A Cultural Approach"
APPENDIX 5
The Pythagorean Theorem in Ancient Egypt
APPENDIX 6
The Contents of the Rhind Mathematical Papyrus
APPENDIX 7
The Contents of the Moscow Mathematical Papyrus
APPENDIX 8
A Papyritic Memo Pad
APPENDIX 9
"HorusEye Fractions in Terms of Hinu: Problems 80, 81 of the Rhind Mathematical Papyrus"
APPENDIX 10
The Egyptian Equivalent of the Least Common Denominator
APPENDIX 11
A Table of TwoTerm Equalities for Egyptian Unit Fractions
APPENDIX 12
"Tables of Hieratic Integers and Fractions, Showing Variations"
APPENDIX 13
Chronology
APPENDIX 14
A Map of Egypt
APPENDIX 15
The Egyptian Mathematical Leather Roll
BIBLIOGRAPHY
INDEX