13 Misunderstandings in the History of Mathematics

In the interest of historical accuracy let it be known that

1) Fibonacci’s daughter was not named “Bunny.”
2) Michael Rolle was not Danish, and did not call his
daughter “Tootsie.”
3) William Horner was not called “Little-Jack” by his
4) The “G” in G. Peano does not stand for “grand.”
5) Rene Descartes’ middle name is not “push.”
6) Isaac Barrow’s middle name is not “wheel.”
7) There is no such place as the University of Wis-cosine,
and if there was, the motto of their mathematics
department would not be “Secant ye shall find.”
8) Although Euler is pronounced oil-er, it does not follow
that Euclid is pronounced oi-clid.
9) Franklin D. Roosevelt never said “The only thing we have
to sphere is sphere itself.”
10) Fibonacci is not a shortened form of the Italian name that
is actually spelled: F i bb ooo nnnnn aaaaaaaa
11) It is true that August Mobius was a difficult and
opinionated man. But he was not so rigid that he could
only see one side to every question.
12) It is true that Johannes Kepler had an uphill struggle
in explaining his theory of elliptical orbits to the
other astronomers of his time. And it is also true that
his first attempt was a failure. But it is not true that
after his lecture the first three questions he was asked
were “What is elliptical?” What is an orbit?” and “What
is a planet?
13) It is true that primitive societies use only rough
approximations for the known constants of mathematics.
For example, the northern tribes of Alaska consider the
ratio of the circumference to the diameter of a circle to
be 3. But it is not true that the value of 3 is called
Eskimo pi. Incidentally, the survival of these tribes is
dependent upon government assistance, which is not always
forthcoming. For example, the Canadian firm of Tait and
Sons sold a stock of defective compasses to the government
at half-price, and the government passed them onto the
northern natives. Hence the saying among these peoples:
“He who has a Tait’s is lost.”

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