Conversations in Math Seminar: Ancient Greek Contribution to Solving the Cubic Equation

Conversations in Math Seminar
Ancient Greek Contribution to Solving the Cubic Equation

Dr. Gary Towsley
Distinguished Teaching Professor
SUNY Geneseo

Register Here for Zoom Link

Attendees will learn about solving the cubic equation.


Probably the first big mathematical event in Europe after the Middle Ages was the discovery of an algebraic solution of a cubic equation by Scipione del Ferro of the University of Bologna around the year 1515. This problem had been puzzled over for probably 4,000 years and was finally solved by a not very famous mathematician in Italy. Why did the discovery occur then and there? To give a tentative answer to this question we need to look at the beginnings of Arithmetic and Algebra in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, the effects of the discovery of irrationality of the square root of two in ancient Greece, the work of the Persian mathematician Omar Khayyam, and the state of mathematics in Europe from 1000 – 1500. In a series of four or five short talks we will explore this question in the context of several millennia of mathematical development. 1. The Beginnings of Arithmetic and Algebra in ancient Egypt and Mespotamia 2. The Pythagoreans and the discovery of the incommensurability of the side and diagonal of a square. 3. The Solutions (non-algebraic) of Cubic Equations by Omar Khayyam, following upon the algebra of Al-Khwarizmi. 4. The two strands of European mathematics from 1000 – 1500. 5. The Algebraic solutions of general cubic and quartic equations in Italy in the Sixteenth Century.

Intended Audience:
Undergraduates, graduates, and experts. Those with interest in the topic.

To request an interpreter, please visit

Raluca Felea
Event Snapshot
When and Where
December 08, 2021
1:25 pm - 2:15 pm
Room/Location: See Zoom Registration Link

This is an RIT Only Event

Interpreter Requested?