Why is a Taylor series expansion centered at 0 called a MacLaurin series expansion? What did MacLaurin do to deserve that?

Answer by Alejandro Jenkins:

Colin Maclaurin wrote an influential mathematical textbook, the Treatise on Fluxions (1742), which developed the calculus along Newtonian lines.  There he made use of Taylor expansions about zero for various functions, giving due credit to Brook Taylor.  This had enough impact that people referred to that particular case as "Maclaurin expansions" (though I've only ever seen that term in passing comments in textbooks).

To complicate matters further, a distinguished modern mathematician has written that

"Integration had already been encountered with Archimedes, and differentiation with Pascal and Fermat; the connection between these operations was known to Barrow.  What did Newton do in analysis?  What was his main mathematical discovery?  Newton invented Taylor series, the main instrument in analysis."

– V. I. Arnold, Huygens and Barrow, Newton and Hooke (Birkhäuser, 1990), p. 42

To complicate matters even further, many sources claim that the original discoverer of Taylor series was James Gregory, who is older than Newton!

This often happens when you try to figure out who really "invented" a concept, because important ideas usually don't appear fully formed in the mind of a single person.  And people often discover things that are later forgotten and re-discovered by someone else who has better luck, or who can see and advertise more clearly the importance of the idea.

Prof. David Goodstein, at Caltech, likes to say that "we give credit to the person who discovers something so well that it's not necessary to discover it again."

Why is a Taylor series expansion centered at 0 called a MacLaurin series expansion? What did MacLaurin do to deserve that?

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Life

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s