History of Mathematics

Apollonius's Parabola
©Domenico Fetti
262 BCE Jan 1

Apollonius's Parabola

Aksu/Antalya, Türkiye

Apollonius of Perga (c. 262–190 BCE) made significant advances to the study of conic sections, showing that one can obtain all three varieties of conic section by varying the angle of the plane that cuts a double-napped cone.[47] He also coined the terminology in use today for conic sections, namely parabola ("place beside" or "comparison"), "ellipse" ("deficiency"), and "hyperbola" ("a throw beyond").[48] His work Conics is one of the best known and preserved mathematical works from antiquity, and in it he derives many theorems concerning conic sections that would prove invaluable to later mathematicians and astronomers studying planetary motion, such as Isaac Newton.[49] While neither Apollonius nor any other Greek mathematicians made the leap to coordinate geometry, Apollonius' treatment of curves is in some ways similar to the modern treatment, and some of his work seems to anticipate the development of analytical geometry by Descartes some 1800 years later.[50]


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Last Updated: : Wed Jan 31 2024