早期數學字彙的歷史 (W)

Last revision: June 29, 1999


WELL-ORDERED. The term wohlgeordnet was used by Cantor in Math. Ann. 1883 XXI. 548.

WHOLE NUMBER. The first citation for this term in the OED2 is from about 1430 in Art of Nombryng ix. EETS 1922:

Of nombres one is lyneal, ano(th)er superficialle, ano(th)er quadrat, ano(th)cubike or hoole.
In the above quotation (th) represents a thorn. In this use, whole number has the obsolete definition of "a number composed of three prime factors," according to the OED2.

The term is found in its modern sense in the title of one of the earliest and most popular arithmetics in the English language, which appeared in 1537 at St. Albans. The work is anonymous, and its long title runs as follows: "An Introduction for to lerne to reken with the Pen and with the Counters, after the true cast of arismetyke or awgrym in hole numbers, and also in broken" (Julio Gonz嫮ez Cabill鏮).

WILSON'S THEOREM was given its name by Edward Waring (1734-1798) for his friend, John Wilson (1741-1793). The first published statement of the theorem was by Waring in his Meditationes algebraicae (1770), although manuscripts in the Hanover Library show that the result had been found by Leibniz.

WITCH OF AGNESI. Luigi Guido Grandi (1671-1742) studied this curve in 1703. He gave it the Latin name versaria or versoria [sources differ], meaning "turning in every direction." According to Boyer in History of Analytic Geometry, Grandi coined the Italian word la versiera in 1718. In 1748, Maria Gaetana Agnesi (1718-1799), in Istituzioni Analitiche, the first calculus book written by a woman, also called the curve la versiera. The British mathematician John Colson (1680-1760), translating Agnesi's work into English, translated the Italian word versiera (intended to mean "turning curve") as "the witch curve." Most sources indicate Colson mistranslated the word, mistaking la versiera for l'aversiera, meaning "the witch"; some sources indicate Agnesi had confused an old Italian word meaning "free to move" with another meaning "witch."

Witch of Agnesi is dated 1875 in MWCD10.

WORKING HYPOTHESIS occurs in J. W. Mellor, Higher Mathematics for Students of Chemistry and Physics (1912): "But the best results in science have been won by anticipating Nature by means of the so-called working hypothesis" [James A. Landau].

WORKING MATHEMATICIAN. In an article "The Ignorance of Bourbaki" (The Mathematical Intelligencer vol. 14, no 3, 1992), A. R. D. Mathias suggests that this phrase is due to Bourbaki. However, Carlos C廥ar de Arajo has found it in a paper by Eliakim Hastings Moore, "On the foundations of mathematics" (Bull. A. M. S., 1903, p. 406).

The term WRONSKIAN (for H鐹n Wronski) was coined by Thomas Muir (1844-1934) in 1882, according to the University of St. Andrews website and Webster's New International Dictionary (1909).


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