Query: unknown quantities (fwd)

Mary McGee mm383 at COLUMBIA.EDU
Wed Sep 23 16:21:17 UTC 1998

Kim Plofker at Brown provided this response to the recent posting
regarding mathematical texts.  I forward it as another piece of
information on this matter.

Mary McGee

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 22 Sep 1998 17:36:22 -0400 (EDT)
From: Kim Plofker <Kim_Plofker at Brown.edu>
To: Mary  McGee <mm383 at columbia.edu>
Subject: Re: Query: unknown quantities (fwd)

Mathematical texts generally use verbal abbreviations for unknown quantities
(e.g., "ya" for the first syllable of "yavat").  I've read that different
colors of ink were used for different variables (hence, I suppose, Bhaskara's
terms "ekavarna" and "anekavarna" for equations in one or more unknowns,
respectively), but I've never seen this used.  Look in Datta & Singh's
_History of Hindu Mathematics_ or Hayashi's _The Bakhshali Manuscript_ for
detailed discussions.


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