The History of Imaginary Numbers The origin of imaginary numbers dates back to the ancient Greeks. Although, at
one time they believed that all numbers were rational numbers. Through the years
mathematicians would not accept the fact that equations could have solutions that were
less than zero. Those type of numbers are what we refer to today as negative numbers.
Unfortunately, because of the lack of knowledge of negative numbers, many equations
over the centuries seemed to be unsolvable. So, from the new found knowledge of
negative numbers mathematicians discovered imaginary numbers.
Around 1545 Girolamo Cardano, an Italian mathematician, solved what seemed to
be an impossible cubic equation. By solving this equation he attributed to the acceptance
of imaginary numbers. Imaginary numbers were known by the early mathematicians in
such forms as the simple equation used today x = +/- ^-1. However, they were seen as
useless. By 1572 Rafael Bombeli showed in his dissertation “Algebra,” that roots of
negative numbers can be utilized.
To solve for certain types of equations such as, the square root of a negative
number ( ^-5), a new number needed to be invented. They called this number “i.” The
square of “i” is -1. These early mathematicians learned that multiplying positive and
negative numbers by “i” a new set of numbers can be formed. These numbers were then
called imaginary numbers. They were called this, because mathematicians still were
unsure of the legitimacy. So, for lack of a better word they temporarily called them
imaginary. Over the centuries the letter “i” was still used in equations therefore, the name
stuck. The original positive and negative numbers were then aptly named real numbers.
What are Imaginary Numbers?
An imaginary number is a number that can be shown as a real number times “i.”
Real numbers are all positive numbers, negative numbers and zero. The square of any
imaginary number is a neg...
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