3,700-year-old Babylonian Tablet Changes History Of Mathematics: Researchers Find.

History never ceases to amaze us, and even when we thought we had a clear idea of ​​what happened in the past, it always surprises us with something new. The actors in this discovery are Dr. Daniel Mansfield and his team from the University of New South Wales in Australia. The group of researchers were studying a 3,700-year-old tablet during the days of the ancient Babylonian civilization, and they found something that could revolutionize the history of mathematics.


image credit: XHNews/Twitter

But let’s get into the details: this discovery has cast doubt on the birth of trigonometry, that branch of mathematics that studies triangles from their angles. Most scholars believe that the Greeks should be credited with studying the sides and angles of triangles, but this Babylonian clay tablet – described as ” the oldest and most accurate trigonometric table in the world “- presents evidence suggesting that the Babylonians used this technique some 1,500 years before the Greeks.

The discovery is not recent: the tablet, also known as Plimpton 322, was discovered at the beginning of the 20th century, but its real usefulness has never been clear. One of the researchers, Daniel Mansfield, states that “our research reveals that Plimpton 322 describes the shapes of right triangles using a new type of trigonometry based on ratios, not angles and circles. it is a fascinating and brilliant mathematical work.


image credit: XHNews/Twitter

The table presents a list of Pythagorean triples, but specialists did not initially understand what these triplets really were. Babylonian mathematics used a base 60 or sexagesimal system. The researchers were able to show that the tablet was originally composed of 6 columns and 38 rows and that it was probably used by the scribes of Antiquity to carry out calculations useful for the construction of infrastructures. The team came to the conclusion that Hipparchus, the Greek astronomer, is not the father of trigonometry, but that it is to the Babylonians that we owe the foundations of mathematics. In addition, Manfield asserts that “Babylonian mathematics may have gone out of fashion for over 3,000 years, but it may have practical applications in the fields of surveying, computer graphics and instruction.”

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