Georges Ifrah

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Georges Ifrah (1947 – 1 November 2019) was a teacher of mathematics, a French author and a self-taught historian of mathematics, especially numerals.

Quotes

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  • The Indian mind has always had for calculations and the handling of numbers an extraordinary inclination, ease and power, such as no other civilization in history ever possessed to the same degree. So much so that Indian culture regarded the science of numbers as the noblest of its arts ... A thousand years ahead of Europeans, Indian savants knew that the zero and infinity were mutually inverse notions.

The Universal History of Numbers

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Ifrah, Georges The Universal History of Numbers: From Prehistory to the Invention of the Computer John Wiley & sons New York 2000p 365 -441, as quoted in Londhe, S. (2008). A tribute to Hinduism: Thoughts and wisdom spanning continents and time about India and her culture
  • The Indian people were the only civilization to take the decisive step towards the perfection of numerical notation. We owe the discovery of modern numeration and the elaboration of the very foundations of written calculations to India alone."
  • It is clear how much we owe to this brilliant civilization, and not only in the field of arithmetic; by opening the way to the generalization of the concept of the number, the Indian scholars enabled the rapid development of mathematics and exact sciences. The discoveries of these men doubtless required much time and imagination, and above all a great ability for abstract thinking. These major discoveries took place within an environment which was at once mystical, philosophical, religious, cosmological, mythological and metaphysical."
  • In India, an aptitude for the study of numbers and arithmetical research was often combined with a surprising tendency towards metaphysical abstractions; in fact, the latter is so deeply ingrained in Indian thought and tradition that one meets it in all fields of study, from the most advanced mathematical ideas to disciplines completely unrelated to 'exact sciences."
  • In short, Indian science was born out of a mystical and religious culture and the etymology of the Sanskrit words used to describe numbers and the science of numbers bears witness to this fact."
  • Sanskrit means "complete", "perfect" and "definitive". In fact, this language is extremely elaborate, almost artificial, and is capable of describing multiple levels of meditation, states of consciousness and psychic, spiritual and even intellectual processes. As for vocabulary, its richness is considerable and highly diversified. Sanskrit has for centuries lent itself admirably to the diverse rules of prosody and versification. Thus we can see why poetry has played such a preponderant role in all of Indian culture and Sanskrit literature." 604
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