[FOM] Pure mathematics and humanity's collective curiosity

Robert Black Mongre at gmx.de
Thu Oct 18 17:30:00 EDT 2007

>>  Lobachevsky had in mind the
>>  possibility that physical space could be non-euclidean to begin with.
>Gauss also, it is said.  I have read that he went to the trouble of
>triangulating from three mountain peaks to see if there was significant
>deviation from Euclidean angles.  Alas, I cannot find a reference;
>can anyone help out on this?

I think you'll find it's a myth - see for example Buehler's biography 
of Gauss. Actually, I'm a bit sceptical about Gauss and non-euclidean 
geometry in general. Nineteenth-century German historians of 
mathematics were just unable to accept that something so important 
could have come from a Hungarian or even worse a Slav and not from 
THE GREAT GERMAN MATHEMATICIAN, and were rather too willing to 
believe Gauss's claim (made *after* he had seen Bolyai's work) that 
he had come to the result years before and just not published it 
through fear of the 'Boetians'. But perhaps there's a proper 
historian of mathematics on this list who can refute my scepticism.

This mail is coming from my gmx address because the University of 
Nottingham doesn't allow smtp access from off campus. You can reply 
either to the address from which this comes or to 
<Robert.Black at nottingham.ac.uk> - either way I'll get it.

Robert Black
Dept of Philosophy
University of Nottingham
Nottingham NG7 2RD

tel. 0115-951 5845
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