Proposal: History of Science And Mathematics

I'm noticing that all of the proposed questions are of a technical nature, and while these questions are very valuable and probably the most important reason for the site to exist, I think it would be overly limiting not to allow other types of questions as well. I would have no problem at all with questions about:

  • Mathematical education in various periods
  • Mathematical funding in various periods
  • The establishment of early mathematical journals
  • The historical interplay between mathematics and culture
  • Biographical questions about specific mathematicians or scientists
  • Actually, I am not certain I understand what you mean by "technical" here. Could you please clarify? The examples you list of non-technical questions, except perhaps the last one, appear technical to me, although I imagine you are using the term in another sense. Commented Feb 22, 2014 at 4:00

1 Answer 1


Short response: I think that not only can appropriate questions come out of your 4 examples, but that they probably will come out of these examples.

I suspect that people are currently trying to come off of their very best capstone questions, and that is why they might seem a bit more technical at the moment. The above topics you have posted strike me as exactly the sort of questions that would fit into the history of mathematics or history of science purview. They also cover some of the sorts of questions that could get closed in say the physics.SE or math.SE sites.

Some examples: In the topic Mathematical education in various periods I could see someone asking a question (abbreviated):

What is the history of teaching long division in western education, who first invented the method, and how did it replace the galley (scratch) method over time?

What sort of mathematical or arithmetic skills would an "educated" person who was not a mathematician by training (e.g. a seminarian or writer...) in 14th century England typically have? Would they have a systematic method to add, multiply, subtract and divide large numbers for example?

In the topic Mathematical funding in various periods I could see someone asking a question (abbreviated):

What were some of the earliest notable examples of large expenditures into mathematical research, and when did the idea of pouring large amounts of money into Mathematics research become popular?

I will stop there. You can see that these are truly math history based questions, they are very much non-technical, and with a little more thought from the poster could become pretty good questions in math history. The first two questions would elicit somewhat definitive answers, there are reference sources available to answer them, and the best researcher would rise to the top.

The third question might get several different answers, but I would not say it so broad as to constitute a big-list (needs refinement though). Eventually question 3 would settle down. It is only broad in that confining it to say Russia, or France might elicit much more definitive answers.

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