Hesitating progress - the slow development toward algebraic symbolization in abbacus- and related manuscripts, c.1300 to c.1550: Contribution to the conference "Philosophical Aspects of Symbolic Reasoning in Early Modern Science and Mathematics",Ghent, 27-29 August 2009

Research output: Working paperResearch


From the early fourteenth century onward, some Italian Abbacus manuscripts begin to use particular abbreviations for algebraic operations and objects and, to be distinguished from that, examples of symbolic operation. The algebraic abbreviations and symbolic operations we find in German Rechenmeister writings can further be seen to have antecedents in Italian manuscripts. This might suggest a continuous trend or perhaps even an inherent logic in the process. Without negating the possibility of such a trend or logic, the paper will show that it becomes invisible in a close-up picture, and that it was thus not understood - nor intended - by the participants in the process.

Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationBerlin
PublisherMax-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte
Number of pages50
Publication statusPublished - 2009

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