The Abbaco Tradition (1300-1500): its role in the development of European algebra

TitleThe Abbaco Tradition (1300-1500): its role in the development of European algebra
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsHeeffer, A
JournalSuuri Kaiseki Kenkyuujo koukyuuroku

Abbaco algebra is a coherent tradition of algebraic problem solving mostly based in the merchant cities of fourteenth and fifteenth-century Italy. This period is roughly situated between two important works dealing with algebra: the Liber Abbaci by Fibonacci (1202) and the Summa di Arithmetica et Geometria by Lucca Pacioli (1492). Such continuous tradition of mathematical practice was hardly known before the first transcriptions of extant manuscripts by Gino Arrighi from the 1960’s and the ground-breaking work by Warren van Egmond (1980). After some decades of manuscript study and the recent assessment of Jens Høyrup (2007) we now have a better understanding of this tradition. In this paper we provide an overview of the basic characteristics of the abbaco tradition and discuss the role it played towards the new symbolic algebra as it emerged in sixteenth-century Europe. We argue that its influence on the sixteenth century has largely been ignored and that the new ars analytica from the French algebraists should be understood as establishing new foundations for the general practice of abbaco problem solving.

Citation Key666246
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