History of Mathematics : Who Were the First People to Use Math?


Hi, I’m Steve Jones and I’m going to look
at the problem of who were the first people to use mathematics. Well, first of all we
have to decide what mathematics is. And if counting is mathematics and if drawing is
mathematics, then who were the first people to count, who were the first people to draw.
Well, the answer is the ancients. But they couldn’t write anything down because they
had nothing to write on or with. So we have no evidence of that. So really, the first
people to use mathematics, we certainly will not have any evidence from them. Or do we
define mathematics, are they the first people to do some kind of calculating; some kind
of working with numbers like the Egyptians, like the Greeks, the Babylonians, like the
Aztecs is that mathematics too. So if it is mathematics, then we could say, well, if you
think about the straight line in South America we have a lot of dessert straight lines, where
we have amazing lone distances, long, long lines going all directions. And, obviously,
done in some kind of mathematically way and many, many, many thousands of year ago. Obviously,
they were some of the first people to use this calculator mathematics. Most importantly
is formal mathematics was often used in subjects like astronomy. And astronomy was related
to life because the sun, and the moon and the stars were thought to be something that
determined your life. So people were very interested in how they moved. And, therefore,
mathematic in the first mathematicians were usually those people who were studying the
stars. And those were people in the recent past, those were people in the ancient past.
So the answer to the question for me is, well, there were a lot of people. We don’t know
about most of them but they were studying the stars and they were building wonderful
things like stone henge. Yet, we know nothing about them but these were the first mathematicians.

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