Regiomontanus and Chinese mathematics

Philosophica 82 (1):87-114 (2008)
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Abstract

This paper critically assesses the claim by Gavin Menzies that Regiomontanus knew about the Chinese Remainder Theorem (CRT) through the Shù shū Jiǔ zhāng (SSJZ) written in 1247. Menzies uses this among many others arguments for his controversial theory that a large fleet of Chinese vessels visited Italy in the first half of the 15th century. We first refute that Regiomontanus used the method from the SSJZ. CRT problems appear in earlier European arithmetic and can be solved by the method of the Sun Zi, as did Fibonacci. Secondly, we pro-vide evidence that remainder problems were treated within the European abbaco tradition independently of the CRT method. Finally, we discuss the role of recreational mathematics for the oral dissemination of sub-scientific knowledge.

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Albrecht Heeffer
Ghent University

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