Eponymy

It has always amused me that, despite mathematicians’ twin loves of hero worship and precision, we’re just as bad about correctly naming things as anybody else.   For example,

  • Arabic numbers were invented in India.   By Hindus.
  • The Leibniz formula displaystyle frac{pi}{4} = 1 - frac{1}{3} + frac{1}{5} - frac{1}{7} + cdots was discovered before Leibniz by his contemporary James Gregory, and 300 years before either of them by Madhava of Sangamagram.
  • Euler’s number e was discovered by Jacob Bernoulli, while Euler’s formula e^{i theta} = cos(theta) + i , sin(theta) was discovered by Cotes.
  • l’Hospital’s Rule was discovered by Johann Bernoulli.
  • Pell’s equation was solved by Lord Brouncher
  • The Gaussian distribution was introduced by de Moivre.
  • Cramer’s Rule was discovered by Maclaurin…
  • But Maclaurin series were discovered by Taylor.
  • Burnside’s Lemma was proved by Cauchy and Frobenius…
  • But Frobenius’ Theorem by proven by  Deahna.
  • Stoke’s Theorem was discovered by Lord Kelvin.
  • The Mandlebrot set was discovered by Fatou and Juila.

Interestingly enough, these are all examples of something called Stigler’s Law, which states that “No scientific discovery is named after its original discoverer.”   It was put forth in 1980 by statistician Stephen Stigler… and is based on work in the 1940s by sociologist Robert Merton.

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