Philosophical Society of Washington

The Square Root of Minus One and Other Mathematical Oddities

Willard S. Grant
Retiring President

2005th Meeting Abstract
Friday, January 08, 1993 at 8:30 PM


Throughout recorded history, men and women have applied abstract mathematical concepts in their everyday life. Notable examples include zero, pi, negative numbers, square roots and logarithms. Mr. Grant will review the first principles (e.g., 2+3=5), present a brief history of the concepts and show how they led to the discovery of the square root of minus one. He will also describe examples of its everyday using such things as electrical circuits and vibrations.

About the Author:

Mr. Grant, the past President of the PSW, works for an engineering company. His specialties are fossil and nuclear power engineering. He learned arithmetic in elementary school the old fashioned way and then struggled with algebra, geometry and trigonometry in high school In college, his studies included calculus and transforms relying on slide rules, calculators and finally computers to crunch the numbers. In spite of these distractions, Mr. Grant maintains a keen interest in the fundamentals of mathematics.

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