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History of mathematics (BM)


Course description
A survey of the history of mathematics from ancient to modern times. We study the development of mathematical theories and ideas in light of their original motivations and contexts, which often reveals illuminating perspectives absent from modern textbooks. We also reflect on the role of mathematics in the sciences and in human thought and society at large. The course involves reading and discussion of historical texts, mathematical exercises retracing key historical developments, and an individual essay project.
There will be weekly homework assignments. One class will take place in the University Library and students will learn to work with original 16th- and 17th century books.

Analyse 1 en 2; a good general background in mathematics is useful.

Course notes and reader, which will be distributed for a small fee.
Students who want to get a first impression can read
D.J. Struik, A concise history of mathematics (Geschiedenis van de Wiskunde),
the Dutch version is available online at

Grading components
Homework assignments 60 %
Essay (including oral presentation) 40 %