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This chapter considers the contributions of early civilizations to the computing field, including the achievements of the Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, and the Islamic world. The Babylonian civilization flourished in Mesopotamia (in modern Iraq) from about 2000 B.C. until about 300 B.C., and they made important contributions to mathematics. The Egyptian civilization developed along the Nile from about 4000 B.C., and their knowledge of mathematics allowed them to construct the pyramids at Giza as well as other impressive monuments. The Greeks made major contributions to Western civilization including mathematics, logic and philosophy. The golden age of Islamic civilization was from 750 A.D. to 1250 A.D., and during this period enlightened caliphs recognized the value of knowledge and sponsored scholars to come to Baghdad to gather and translate the existing world knowledge into Arabic.
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Of course, while the new technologies are of major benefit to society, it is essential that the population of the world moves towards more sustainable development to ensure the long-term survival of the planet for future generations. This involves finding technological and other solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well as moving to a carbon neutral way of life. The solution to the environmental issues will be a major challenge for the twenty-first century.
Tutankhamun was a minor Egyptian pharaoh who reigned after the controversial rule of Akhenaten. Howard Carter discovered Tutankhamun’s intact tomb in the Valley of the Kings. The quality of the workmanship of the artefacts found in the tomb was extraordinary, and a visit to the Egyptian museum in Cairo is memorable.
The origin of the word ‘democracy’ is from demos (δημος) meaning people and kratos (κρατος) meaning rule. That is, it means rule by the people. It was introduced into Athens following the reforms introduced by Cleisthenes. He divided the Athenian city-state into 13 areas. Twenty of these areas were inland or along the coast and ten were in Attica itself. Fishermen lived mainly in the ten coastal areas; farmers in the ten inland areas; and various tradesmen in Attica. Cleisthenes introduced ten new clans where the members of each clan came from one coastal area and one inland area on one area in Attica. He then introduced a boule (or assembly) which consisted of 500 members (50 from each clan). Each clan ruled for 1/ 10 of the year.
The Athenian democracy involved the full participations of the citizens (i.e. the male adult members of the city-state who were not slaves), whereas in representative democracy the citizens elect representatives to rule and represent their interests. The Athenian democracy was chaotic and could also be easily influenced by individuals who were skilled in rhetoric. There were teachers (known as the sophists) who taught wealthy citizens rhetoric in return for a fee. The origin of the word ‘sophist’ is the Greek word σοφος meaning wisdom. One of the most well known of the sophists was Protagorus. The problems with Athenian democracy led philosophers such as Plato to consider alternate solutions such as rule by philosopher kings. This is described in Plato’s Republic.
The Elgin marbles are named after Lord Elgin who moved them from the Parthenon in Athens to London in 1806. The marbles show the Panathenaic festival that was held in Athens in honour of the goddess Athena after whom Athens is named.
The origin of the word Hellenistic is from Hellene (‘Ελλην) meaning Greek.
The hanging gardens of Babylon were one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
A positional numbering system is a number system where each position is related to the next by a constant multiplier. The decimal system is an example: e.g. 546 = 5* 10 2 + 4* 10 1 + 6.
The decorations of the tombs in the Valley of the Kings record the life of the pharaoh including his exploits and successes in battle.
The cartouche surrounded a group of hieroglyphic symbols enclosed by an oval shape. Champollion’s insight was that the group of hieroglyphic symbols represented the name of the Ptolemaic pharaoh ‘Ptolemy’.
The Rhind papyrus is sometimes referred to as the Ahmose papyrus in honour of the scribe who wrote it in 1832 B.C.
The length of a side of the bottom base of the pyramid is b 1 and the length of a side of the top base is b 2.
The Pythagoreans were a secret society and its members took a vow of silence with respect to this discovery. However, one member of the society is said to have shared the secret result with others outside the sect, and the apocryphal account is that he was thrown into a lake for his betrayal and drowned. They obviously took mathematics seriously back then!
The ancient library in Alexandria was once the largest library in the world. It was build during the Hellenistic period in the third century B.C. and destroyed by fire in 391 A.D.
The town of Aswan is famous today for the Aswan high dam, which was built in the 1960s. There was an older Aswan dam built by the British in the late nineteenth century. The new dam led to a rise in the water level of Lake Nasser and flooding of archaeological sites along the Nile. Several sites such as Abu Simbel and the island of Philae were relocated to higher ground.
The origin of the word ‘odometer’ is from the Greek words ‘οδος’ (meaning journey) and μετρον (meaning measure).
The figures given here are for the distance of one Roman mile. This is given by π 4* 400 = 12.56 * 400 = 5024 (which is less than 5280 ft for a standard mile in the imperial system).
Socrates was a moral philosopher who deeply influenced Plato. His method of enquiry into philosophical problems and ethics was by questioning. Socrates himself maintained that he knew nothing (Socratic ignorance). However, from his questioning it became apparent that those who thought they were clever were not really that clever after all. His approach obviously would not have made him very popular with the citizens of Athens. Socrates had consulted the oracle at Delphi to find out who was the wisest of all men, and he was informed that there was no one wiser than him. Socrates was sentenced to death for allegedly corrupting the youth of Athens, and he was forced to drink the juice of the hemlock plant (a type of poison).
Chrysippus was the head of the Stoics in the third century B.C.
The Aeneid by Virgil suggests that the Romans were descended from survivors of the Trojan War and that Aeneas brought surviving Trojans to Rome after the fall of Troy.
Carthage was located in Tunisia, and the wars between Rome and Carthage are known as the Punic wars. Hannibal was one of the great Carthaginian military commanders, and during the second Punic war, he brought his army to Spain, marched through Sprain and crossed the Pyrenees. He then marched along southern France and crossed the Alps into Northern Italy. His army also consisted of war elephants. Rome finally defeated Carthage and levelled the city.
The Celtic period commenced around 1000 B.C. in Hallstatt (near Salzburg in Austria). The Celts were skilled in working with iron and bronze, and they gradually expanded into Europe. They eventually reached Britain and Ireland around 600 B.C. The early Celtic period was known as the ‘Hallstatt period’, and the later Celtic period is known as the ‘La Téne’ period. The La Téne period is characterized by the quality of ornamentation produced. The Celtic museum in Hallein in Austria provides valuable information and artefacts on the Celtic period. The Celtic language has similarities to the Irish language. However, the Celts did not employ writing, and the ogham writing developed in Ireland was developed in the early Christian period.
Augustus was the first Roman emperor, and his reign ushered in a period of peace and stability following the bitter civil wars. He was the adopted son of Julius Caesar and was called Octavion before he became emperor. The earlier civil wars were between Caesar and Pompey, and following Caesar’s assassination civil war broke out between Mark Anthony and Octavion. Octavion defeated Anthony and Cleopatra at the battle of Actium in 31 B.C.
The origin of the word ‘Moor’ is from the Greek work μυοροζ meaning very dark. It referred to the fact that many of the original Moors who came to Spain were from Egypt, Tunisia and other parts of North Africa.
The Moorish influence includes the construction of various castles ( alcazar), fortresses ( alcalzaba) and mosques. One of the most striking Islamic sites in Spain is the palace of Alhambra in Granada, and it represents the zenith of Islamic art.
The Catholic Monarchs refer to Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castille who married in 1469. They captured Granada (the last remaining part of Spain controlled by the Moors) in 1492.
go back to reference Anglin WS, Lambek J (1995) The heritage of Thales. Springer Verlag, New York Anglin WS, Lambek J (1995) The heritage of Thales. Springer Verlag, New York
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go back to reference O’Regan G (2012) Mathematics in computing. Springer, London O’Regan G (2012) Mathematics in computing. Springer, London
go back to reference Resnikoff HL, Wells RO (1984) Mathematics in civilization. Dover Publications, New York Resnikoff HL, Wells RO (1984) Mathematics in civilization. Dover Publications, New York
go back to reference Smith DE (1923) History of mathematics, vol 1. Dover Publications, New York Smith DE (1923) History of mathematics, vol 1. Dover Publications, New York
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