Why was Wantzel overlooked for a century

Einladung zum Mathematischen Kolloquium

Wir laden Sie herzlich zu folgendem Vortrag ein,

der im Bau 2-413, Staudinger Weg 9, Raum 05-514 stattfindet:

„Why was Wantzel overlooked for a century“

Donnerstag, 23. Oktober 2008, 17 Uhr c.t.

Prof. Dr. Jesper Lützen (Universität Kopenhagen)

In 1837 Pierre Wantzel proved that the classical problems of the duplication of the cube and the trisection of the angle cannot be solved by ruler and compass. In modern books on the history of mathematics he is given credit for this contribution. However in his own time and for the following century his proof was hardly noticed. In the talk I shall analyze the reason for this neglect. I shall argue that a main reason was the fact that such impossibility results were not really important in the problem oriented quantitative mathematical paradigm that still prevailed at the beginning of the 19th century.

I shall show that in connection with the problem of the unsolvability of the quintic by radicals Abel was aware of this fact and explicitly tried to change the way the problem was posed, in such a way that his impossibility theorem could count as a solution of the problem. I shall argue that impossibility only became fully integrated in mathematics towards the end of the 19th century. Hilbert’s famous talk about mathematical problems makes this explicit.

16.45 Uhr Kolloquiumstee (Hilbertraum 05-432)

Die Dozenten der Mathematik

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