The history of mathematics from ancient times to the present day. Narrated by Oxford mathematics professor Marcus du Sautoy, the series covers the seminal moments and people in the development of maths.
Mathematical problems became spectator sports in the 16th century, with generous prizes given to the winners. In such a competitive atmosphere, it’s not surprising that mathematicians would jealously guard their knowledge – and in some cases, behave very badly. Gerolamo Cardano appeared to solve a problem known as the cubic equation, but he had stolen the solution, from a rival mathematician – Niccolò Tartaglia.
France began to challenge Italian mathematical domination with Rene Descartes, who linked algebra and geometry – a decisive step that would change the course of the discipline forever. He was followed by a maths prodigy, Blaise Pascal, who proved that the sum of the angles of a triangle were equal to two right angles at just 12 years old. Pascal went on to invent a mechanical calculator and proved that a vacuum could exist.
In England Isaac Newton developed calculus, which could account for the orbits of the planets, but spent the rest of his life embroiled in a dispute with the German mathematical genius Gottfried Leibniz over who developed it first.