• Book Title:
 Classical Mathematics From Al Khwarizmi To Descartes
  • Book Author:
Roshdi Rashed
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This book follows the development of classical mathematics and the relation between work done in the Arab and Islamic worlds and that undertaken by the likes of Descartes and Fermat.

‘Early modern’ mathematics is a term widely used to refer to the mathematics which developed in the West during the sixteenth and seventeenth century.

For many historians and philosophers this is the watershed which marks a radical departure from ‘classical mathematics,’ to more modern mathematics; heralding the arrival of algebra, geometrical algebra, and the mathematics of the continuous.

 In this book, Roshdi Rashed demonstrates that ‘early modern’ mathematics is actually far more composite than previously assumed, with each branch having different traceable origins which span the millennium.

Going back to the beginning of these parts, the aim of this book is to identify the concepts and practices of key figures in their development, thereby presenting a fuller reality of these mathematics.

This book will be of interest to students and scholars specialising in Islamic science and mathematics, as well as to those with an interest in the more general history of science and mathematics and the transmission of ideas and culture.

Roshdi Rashed is one of the most eminent authorities on Arabic mathematics and the exact sciences. A historian and philosopher of mathematics and science and a highly celebrated epistemologist, he is currently Emeritus Research Director (dis- tinguished class) at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) in Paris, and is the former Director of the Centre for History of Medieval Science and Philosophy at the University of Paris (Denis Diderot, Paris VII).

He also holds an Honorary Professorship at the University of Tokyo and an Emeritus Professorship at the University of Mansourah in Egypt.

Michael H. Shank is Professor of the History of Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he teaches surveys of the history of science from antiquity to Newton. His research interests focus on, and often stray beyond, the late-medieval Viennese astronomical and natural philosophical traditions.


Classical Mathematics from al-Khwārizmī to Descartes includes two new chapters – one on the transmission of Greek heritage into Arabic and the other on Descartes’s mathematics – that did not appear in the original French of D’al-Khwārizmī à Descartes. Conversely, I have omitted here the chapter on burning mirrors (‘Les miroirs ardents, anaclastique et dioptrique’), a subject to which I devoted an entire book, which is now available in English.1

The English translation of the present work by Professor Michael Shank has benefited greatly from both his competence in the history and philosophy of science and his refined bilingualism. I mention this to express my profound gratitude for his hard work and for apposite comments that improved the text.

I warmly thank Aline Auger (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique), who focused her competence and flawless attention to detail on assembling the index and preparing the book for the press.

I am also grateful to Kathryn Rylance and Joe Whiting at Routledge for the care that they gave to this project at every stage of its development.

Last but not least, Dr Khair El-Din Haseeb has spared no effort in bringing this historical research to audiences beyond the original francophone one. I hereby offer him my friendly gratitude.


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