clear

Subscribe

Recent Posts

clear

Categories

clear
Tuesday, 30 January 2007
Gander. Sauce. Goose.
Share
clear

The word "algebra" comes from an Arabic-speaking mathematician. Algebra as a mental undertaking comes from India, as does the concept of the zero. You don't have to be John Derbyshire to know that. You only have to be an eleven-year-old who has just completed Launcelot Hogben's "The Wonderful World of Mathematics."

Similarly, paper-making comes from China. That it then arrived in Damascus, and thence to Europe, should not be cause for credit accruing on the Arab Muslim account. We don't even know who was the conduit: perhaps it was a Jewish merchant, one of those whose papers were disinterred by S. D. Goitein from the Cairo Geniza. Perhaps it was a Nestorian Christian, going off to visit other Nestorian Christians who were, long ago, to be found all over the area from the Middle East to China.

In any case, the transmitter or bearer of the discoveries or inventions of others are lower down on the civilizational-gratitude scale.

If Muslims want to be celebrated for locating, and bringing westward the achievements of Chinese paper-makers (see Dard Hunter) or Hindu mathematicians (see every conceivable history of mathematics), then Hindus should demand a special unit, in the same schools, on algebra, the concept of zero, and much else that came from the subcontinent before the Muslim invasion.

Two -- no, many more -- can play that game.

Gander. Sauce. Goose. 

clear
Posted on 01/30/2007 4:54 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Comments
30 Jan 2007
Luke
Yes indeed. But strangely enough, it's only the Muslims children in school who seem to need to have their self esteem lifted in the school system. Hindu and Chinese kids, whilst undergoing whatever prejudice and disadvantages they face in society, manage to do well at school without having their worth affirmed during maths and science class. And you see it when you meet an Indian or Chinese kid in England. Relaxed, proud of their culture, integrated, well balanced.