In pre-Revolutionary France, geometry merged with algebra to form the basis of the Calculus. But the journey algebra had taken to this pivotal moment could not have been more different to that of geometry.
In The Bone-Setters, J.F. Riley traces algebra’s roots from the searing sun of the Indian sub-continent, to the Middle East where it was gifted to the Arabs in AD773. When developed and transported to the West, it met the established Christian Church head-on not only because it heralded from the East but was also written in strange, if not demonic symbols that ... was dangerous Saracen magic.
As the mathematics of anything ‘unknown’, algebra found many applications in the age of exploration and the mathematical adventures of artists, sculptures and architects. Not least to take advantage were the accountants and bankers ever watchful of their red columns. Renaissance algebraists accepted the many challenges the new mathematics presented, but not without their fair share of ongoing feuds that seemed to be the hallmark of any new discovery. Algebra’s cloak of respectability finally came to rest in early 17th century France when it emerged as the all-powerful uniting discipline that destiny had long reserved for it.