Ambiguities of Fundamental Concepts in Mathematical Analysis During the Mid-nineteenth Century

Foundations of Science 17 (4):301-320 (2012)
In this paper we consider the major development of mathematical analysis during the mid-nineteenth century. On the basis of Jahnke’s (Hist Math 20(3):265–284, 1993 ) distinction between considering mathematics as an empirical science based on time and space and considering mathematics as a purely conceptual science we discuss the Swedish nineteenth century mathematician E.G. Björling’s general view of real- and complexvalued functions. We argue that Björling had a tendency to sometimes consider mathematical objects in a naturalistic way. One example is how Björling interprets Cauchy’s definition of the logarithm function with respect to complex variables, which is investigated in the paper. Furthermore, in view of an article written by Björling (Kongl Vetens Akad Förh Stockholm 166–228, 1852 ) we consider Cauchy’s theorem on power series expansions of complex valued functions. We investigate Björling’s, Cauchy’s and the Belgian mathematician Lamarle’s different conditions for expanding a complex function of a complex variable in a power series. We argue that one reason why Cauchy’s theorem was controversial could be the ambiguities of fundamental concepts in analysis that existed during the mid-nineteenth century. This problem is demonstrated with examples from Björling, Cauchy and Lamarle.
Keywords History of mathematics  Mathematical analysis  Complex analysis  Power series expansion  The logarithm function  Ambiguities
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DOI 10.1007/s10699-011-9274-3
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Karin U. Katz & Mikhail G. Katz (2011). Cauchy's Continuum. Perspectives on Science 19 (4):426-452.
M. Kline (1978). Mathematical Thought From Ancient to Modern Times. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 29 (1):68-87.

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