Towards a Materialist Concept of the History of Science: The Development of Number Systems

By Matthias Tomczak.

Published by The International Journal of Science in Society

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: February 2, 2015 $US5.00

The development of number systems as a prerequisite for astronomy and other sciences is described in the framework of Marxist analysis through the early stages of human society. It is shown that number systems developed in response to the material needs of the society. Hunter-gatherer societies had no need to count and therefore only had numbers from one to five. The introduction of private property in herding societies led to the development of absolute number systems. The need of agricultural societies for a calendar gave rise to the position-value number system. It is argued that the intellectual step of Indian mathematicians to separate the representation of numbers from counting aids such as pebbles or sticks and develop a concept of the realm of numbers was assisted by the debates and controversies played out between the various schools of Indian religion.

Keywords: History of Science

The International Journal of Science in Society, Volume 6, Issue 1, February 2015, pp.15-23. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: February 2, 2015 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 347.536KB)).

Prof. Matthias Tomczak

Emeritus Professor of Oceanography, School of the Environment, Flinders University, Adelaide, SA, Australia

Matthias Tomczak: Tomczak holds a doctorate in science from the University of Kiel and a doctorate in habilitation from the University of Hamburg. He is Emeritus Professor of Oceanography at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia and the designer and editor of the Flinders University oceanography website and the science and civilization website