Mathematics-Science 380 -- History of mathematics

Trent University, 2006-2007

Prerequisite: MATH 110 and 235H, or MATH 110 and permission of the instructor. Second-year students wishing to take the course must have permission of the instructor.

Exam period office hours:
For 9-24 April, Monday through Thursday 11:00-12:00.


Stefan Bilaniuk
Gzowski College (Symons Campus) 337
Winter hours: Mondays 10:00-10:50, and Tuesdays 11:00-11:50, Wednesdays 11:00-11:50, and Thursdays 10:00-10:50, or by appointment, or just drop by!
Winter hours: To be announced.
phone: 748-1011 x7474
home phone: 742-7862 -- Do not call between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m.
e-mail: sbilaniuk @


The Heritage of Thales, by W.S. Anglin & J. Lambeck
Springer Verlag, 1995, ISBN 0-387-94544-X


Lectures: Mondays and Thursdays 11:00-11:50 in GCS 110.
Seminars: Thursdays 12:00-12:50 in GCS 110.

Marking Scheme - Revised!

There will be twelve eleven fortnightly assignments, two term projects, and a take-home final examination. The assignments will be handed out and collected every other week in the Wednesday lectures, the projects will be due at the end of each term, and the final examination will be written during the examination period in April and will be due at its end. The final mark will be calculated as follows:

Best 10 9 of 12 11 assignments (10 at 4% ea.) (9 at 4.4% ea.) 40%
2 Projects (2 at 15% ea.) 30%
Final Examination 30%

This scheme may be modified for students in exceptional circumstances. Any such modification will require the agreement of both the student and the instructor.


Plagiarism is an extremely serious academic offence and carries penalties varying from failure in an assignment to suspension from the University. Definitions, penalties and procedures for dealing with plagiarism are set out in Trent University's Academic Dishonesty Policy which is printed in the Calendar. It can also be found online.

For clarity, the following guidelines will apply in MATH 380: You are permitted and encouraged to work together and ask anyone willing (especially the instructor!) for explanations, hints, and suggestions on the problem sets, and to consult whatever sources you wish, with the exception that you may not consult anyone who has taken the course before or their work. However, all work submitted for credit must be written up entirely by you, giving due credit to all relevant sources of help and information. The take-home final exam will have more restrictive conditions that will be spelled out on the exam.


We will survey the historical development of some important parts of mathematics. In particular, we will focus on the evolution of proofs and abstraction and the development of algebra. In rough chronological order, we will consider mathematics in:

  1. Prehistory (i.e. the -- speculative! -- origins)
  2. Egypt and Mesopotamia
  3. Classical Greece and Rome
  4. China, India, and the Islamic world
  5. Europe from the Middle Ages on
  6. The world at present

Note that additional material may be covered on the assignments and projects.

Work & Handouts

View or download in pdf format:

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Maintained by Stefan Bilaniuk. Last updated 2007.04.05.