Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

History of the del stuff

  1. Nov 23, 2009 #1
    The gradient, divergence, curl and Laplacian operators are so much a part of classical electromagnetism, I was wondering: what is their history? Who invented them? Newton? Laplace? Maxwell himself?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 23, 2009 #2

    arildno

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member
    Dearly Missed

    The first root of modern-day vectorial analysis and notation can be traced back to Hamilton's work on quaternions.

    Maxwell and others used what they found useful here, without much standardization.

    Generally, fully modern vector analysis (and, PRESUMABLY, vectorial notation) was developed by Gibbs in the 1880s, but with general acceptance around 1910.

    There exists a largely acclaimed book on the History of Vecor Analysis by Michael Crowe;
    you may order it from amazon.com here:
    https://www.amazon.com/History-Vector-Analysis-Evolution-Vectorial/dp/0486679101
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2017
  4. Nov 23, 2009 #3

    arildno

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member
    Dearly Missed

    Having looked a bit furter, I found the following link:
    http://jeff560.tripod.com/calculus.html

    Here, it is clear that Hamilton was the first to introduce the del operator, but that Tait was the one to rotate Hamilton's symbol 90 degrees into its modern shape.
    Some uncertainty exists whether it was Tait or Maxwell who dubbed it "nabla":

    The standard reference work for mathematical notation seems to be Florian Cajori's work "A History of Mathematical Notations" in two volumes, originally published in the late 1920's:
    https://www.amazon.com/History-Math...=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1259001071&sr=8-4
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2017
  5. Nov 24, 2009 #4
    Thanks arildno - those are great references!
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook




Similar Discussions: History of the del stuff
  1. (A * del) (Replies: 10)

  2. Del operator? (Replies: 5)

  3. Del inverses (Replies: 6)

  4. Del Operator (Replies: 7)

  5. Grad (del) (Replies: 1)

Loading...