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History of differential equation

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History of differential equation

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Without knowing something about differential equations and methods of solving them, it is difficult to appreciate the history of this important branch of mathematics. Further, the development of differential equations is intimately interwoven with the general development of mathematics and cannot be separated from it. Nevertheless, to provide some historical perspective, we indicate here some of the major trends in the history of the subject, and identify the most prominent early contributors. Other historical infor- mation is contained in footnotes scattered throughout the book and in the references listed at the end of the chapter. The subject of differential equations originated in the study of calculus by Isaac Newton (1642–1727) and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646–1716) in the seventeenth century. Newton grew up in the English countryside, was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, and became Lucasian Professor of Mathematics there in 1669. His epochal discoveries of calculus and of the fundamental laws of mechanics date from 1665. They were circulated privately among his friends, but Newton was extremely sensitive to criticism, and did not begin to publish his results until 1687 with the appearance of his most famous book, Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica. While Newton did relatively little work in differential equations as such, his development of the calculus and elucidation of the basic principles of mechanics provided a basis for their applications in the eighteenth century, most notably by Euler. Newton classified first order differential equations according to the forms dy/dx = f (x), dy/dx = f (y), and dy/dx = f (x,y). For the latter equation he developed a method of solution using infinite series when f (x,y) is a polynomial in x and y. Newton’s active research in mathematics ended in the early 1690s except for the solution of occasional challenge problems and the revision and publication of results obtained much earlier. He was...