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Poems That Solve PuzzlesThe History and Science of Algorithms$
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Chris Bleakley

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780198853732

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198853732.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 24 January 2021

Ancient Algorithms

Ancient Algorithms

(p.9) 1 Ancient Algorithms
Poems That Solve Puzzles

Chris Bleakley

Oxford University Press

Chapter 1 traces the origins of algorithms from ancient Mesopotamia to Greece in the 2th century BC. The oldest known algorithms were inscribed on clay tablets by the Babylonians more than 4,000 years ago. The clay tablets document algorithms ranging from geometry to accountancy. One tablet in particular - YBC 7289 - indicates knowledge of the Pythagorean Theorem thousands of years before its supposed invention by the ancient Greeks. The Greeks made other advances in algorithms. Euclid’s algorithm determines the greatest common divisor of two numbers. The Sieve of Eratosthenes finds prime numbers. Both algorithms proved to be important stepping stones to modern cryptography - the mathematics of secret messages.

Keywords:   algorithm, Babylonia, cuneiform, ancient Greece, Pythagorean Theorem, Euclid, Eratosthenes

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