The Story Of Maths (2008) BBC Four

The Genius of the East (6/6)

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Video Description


With the decline of ancient Greece, the development of maths stagnated in Europe. However the progress of mathematics continued in the East. Du Sautoy describes both the Chinese use of maths in engineering projects and their belief in the mystical powers of numbers. He mentions Qin Jiushao.

He describes Indian mathematicians’ invention of trigonometry; their introduction of a symbol for the number zero and their contribution to the new concepts of infinity and negative numbers. It shows Gwalior Fort where zero is inscribed on its walls. It mentions the work of Brahmagupta and BhÄ

Documentary Description

Mathematics is the Empress of the Sciences. Without her, there would be no physics, nor chemistry, nor cosmology. Any field of study depending on statistics, geometry, or any kind of calculation would simply cease to be. And then, there are the practical applications: without maths there’s no architecture. No commerce. No accurate maps, or time-keeping: therefore no navigation, nor aviation, nor astronomy.

She is all-powerful: and she rules ruthlessly. Imperious and unyielding, mathematics brooks no dissent and tolerates no error. In an age of uncertainty, mathematics is the only discipline that generates knowledge that’s immutably, incontestably, and eternally true.

In this landmark series of films for BBC FOUR, Marcus du Sautoy, Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford, escorts viewers through the history of this most important of all intellectual disciplines. In a journey that takes him through the ages and around the world, he examines the development of key mathematical ideas and shows how, in a multitude of surprising ways, mathematical ideas underpin the science, technology, and culture that shape our world.

As Marcus shows, mathematics was part of the bedrock of intellectual life in the world’s great civilisations. It was central to the survival of some of the world’s most powerful empires. And even today, mathematical knowledge remains the motor-force that drives the modern world.

The films in this ambitious series offer clear, accessible explanations of important mathematical ideas but are also packed with engaging anecdotes, fascinating biographical details, and pivotal episodes in the lives of the great mathematicians. Engaging, enlightening and entertaining, the series gives viewers new and often surprising insights into the central importance of mathematics, establishing this discipline to be one of humanity’s greatest cultural achievements.
Content last updated: 10/04/2008
Source: BBC Open University


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