Uncovering the Discovery of e=2.7

• Hepic
In summary, mathematicians discovered the number e=2.7 through its natural appearance in continuously calculated compound interest and exponential growth models. Its fundamental property of being its own derivative makes it an important number in modern mathematics. The number was also used in the 17th century to find the area under the hyperbolic curve, showing its significance in application. However, its use and importance were only fully realized after its discovery.
Hepic
I want to learn how mathematicians found the number e=2.7
I do not mean the way(1/1 + 1/1*2 ...),but why they found that??
How they imagine that this number will be so usefull??
What was their difficulty and they discover this number??

Thank y!

1. Well, within economics, if you go from discretely calculated compound interest to calculations of continuously calculated compound interest, the number "e" will appear as the most natural number base for such calculations.

2. Another way in which "e" naturally appears are in simple growth models: If the rate of increase is strictly proportional to the actual population level at that time, again "e" will occur as a naturally preferred base for the exponential growth.

1. and 2. are obviously conceptually related, but comes from two different fields of reality, so to speak.

$$\int_1^e \frac {dx} x = 1$$

This relationship is a key definition for my understanding of e.

Integral said:
$$\int_1^e \frac {dx} x = 1$$

This relationship is a key definition for my understanding of e.

That seems rather silly.

1MileCrash said:
That seems rather silly.
Why?
To find the area under the multiplicative inverse function (i.e, standard hyperbola) was a MAJOR undertaking in the 17th century.

That is, the gradually developed understanding of the (natural) logarithm function was a critical step in the history of the development of modern mathematics.

In his "First course in calculus", Lang has a nice argument to introduce ##e##. It's a bit informal, but he makes it rigorous eventually.

Basically, he introduces the exponential function ##f(x) = a^x##. He then proves that

$$f^\prime(x) = f^\prime(0) a^x$$

Then he shows (by using graphs), that there must exist some number ##e## such that if ##a=e##, then ##f^\prime(0) = 1##. Thus holds that

$$\frac{d}{dx}e^x = e^x$$

In my opinion, this is the absolute best way to think of ##e## since this is its fundamental property. I know historically it has been introduced with interest rates and stuff. But the importance nowadays of ##e## seems to be its use in derivatives.

arildno said:
Why?
To find the area under the multiplicative inverse function (i.e, standard hyperbola) was a MAJOR undertaking in the 17th century.

That is, the gradually developed understanding of the (natural) logarithm function was a critical step in the history of the development of modern mathematics.

None of that makes it a particularly good definition, but to each their own.

arildno said:
Why?
To find the area under the multiplicative inverse function (i.e, standard hyperbola) was a MAJOR undertaking in the 17th century.

That is, the gradually developed understanding of the (natural) logarithm function was a critical step in the history of the development of modern mathematics.

I agree with 1MileCrash here. It's obviously a very important property, but this doesn't really make a good definition.

1MileCrash said:
None of that makes it a particularly good definition, but to each their own.

Actually, you are the one needing to argue for the "silliness" of Integral's comment. As yet, you haven't

1MileCrash said:
That seems rather silly.
That seems rather silly only after the fact when you know that Integral's integral evaluates to ##\ln(e) = 1##.

Before the fact, I see Integral's integral as rather fundamental.

arildno said:
Actually, you are the one needing to argue for the "silliness" of Integral's comment. As yet, you haven't

If e was discovered to answer the question "what is the maximum of the real valued function x^(1/x)", sure, maybe that had some important application and was an important question in this hypothetical universe, but that does not make it a good definition.

"The number a such that d/dx a^x = a^x" says the same thing denotatively as "the number a such that when 1/x is integrated from 1 to a, the result is 1" except the former is more concise, and requires less to understand.

Connotatively, saying that e is "a such that d/dx a^x = a^x" immediately tells me where e is going to be involved, and its significance. Clearly, e is going to make an appearance in situations where growth or decay is proportional to current value. It isn't even a leap, or a derivation, it is plainly stated.

Saying "the number a such that when 1/x is integrated from 1 to a, the result is 1" does not allow me to immediately see where e would appear. Showing me that, I could not see its significance in application immediately, I would only know it as an interesting number with a relationship to 1/x.

D H said:
That seems rather silly only after the fact when you know that Integral's integral evaluates to ##\ln(e) = 1##.

Before the fact, I see Integral's integral as rather fundamental.

"After the fact" requires knowledge of e in the first place, so "before the fact" is how any reasonable person should consider that definition.

1MileCrash said:
"After the fact" requires knowledge of e in the first place, so "before the fact" is how any reasonable person should consider that definition.
Nope.
If you go back to 17th century maths, the question of what number would make the the area under the hyperbolic curve equal to 1 was a fairly important question.

1MileCrash said:
If e was discovered to answer the question "what is the maximum of the real valued function x^(1/x)", sure, maybe that had some important application and was an important question in this hypothetical universe, but that does not make it a good definition.

"The number a such that d/dx a^x = a^x" says the same thing denotatively as "the number a such that when 1/x is integrated from 1 to a, the result is 1" except the former is more concise, and requires less to understand.

Connotatively, saying that e is "a such that d/dx a^x = a^x" immediately tells me where e is going to be involved, and its significance. Clearly, e is going to make an appearance in situations where growth or decay is proportional to current value. It isn't even a leap, or a derivation, it is plainly stated.

Saying "the number a such that when 1/x is integrated from 1 to a, the result is 1" does not allow me to immediately see where e would appear. Showing me that, I could not see its significance in application immediately, I would only know it as an interesting number with a relationship to 1/x.
Basically, here you presuppose the conception of the derivative.

Finding the area under a curve does not, and questions about how to evaluate it will occur independent of fruitful mathematical definitions of derivatives and integrals.

arildno said:
Nope.

What exactly are you objecting to? That we should consider Integral's definition without knowing that the integral of 1/x evaluates to ln(x)?

I would presume that Integral's definition of e does not require me to know this property about e (that it is the base of the logarithmic function whose derivative is 1/x).

Intergral's definition is about area, it has nothing to do with 1/x's antiderivative as a function.

arildno said:
Basically, here you presuppose the conception of the derivative.

Finding the area under a curve does not, and questions about how to evaluate it will occur independent of fruitful mathematical definitions of derivatives and integrals.

Area is not a more basic concept than a rate of change. I used the derivative notation to symbolize the rate of change just as the integral symbol has been used to symbolize area. Neither requires a fruitful mathematical definition of derivatives or integrals.

"Intergral's definition is about area, it has nothing to do with 1/x's antiderivative as a function. "

QUITE so.
That's why it can be regarded as more fundamental, rather than as silly.

Actually a more interesting discussion would be the universality of e:

$$\sum_{k=0}^{\infty} \frac{1}{k!} = \lim_{n\rightarrow\infty} \left(1+\frac{1}{n}\right)^n$$

dextercioby said:
Actually a more interesting discussion would be the universality of e:

$$\sum_{k=0}^{\infty} \frac{1}{k!} = \lim_{n\rightarrow\infty} \left(1+\frac{1}{n}\right)^n$$

Aah, happy memories!
Reminds me of my student days, when I and a couple of co-students became determined to prove that identity directly.

We were proud of ourselves when we managed to do so, not the least because we found it rather troublesome to achieve.

arildno said:
"Intergral's definition is about area, it has nothing to do with 1/x's antiderivative as a function. "

QUITE so.
That's why it can be regarded as more fundamental, rather than as silly.
I still regard it as silly. The OP was not asking, as I interpret it, for the best formal definition of e but rather why and how mathematicians came to realize e was important. All of my insight into why e is important came before I saw that integral definition and historically that is the case too as far as I know.

Jorriss said:
I still regard it as silly. The OP was not asking, as I interpret it, for the best formal definition of e but rather why and how mathematicians came to realize e was important. All of my insight into why e is important came before I saw that integral definition and historically that is the case too as far as I know.
You are entitled to your opinions, obviously, but not to your own (historical) facts.

That ends my involvement in this thread.

arildno said:
"Intergral's definition is about area, it has nothing to do with 1/x's antiderivative as a function. "

QUITE so.
That's why it can be regarded as more fundamental, rather than as silly.

The thing is, if I were a student new to calculus and if I were to define ##e## as

$$\int_1^e \frac{1}{x} = 1$$

then I would think "alright, cool". But I wouldn't see at all the importance of what ##e## is. Why would we care about this new number ##e## in the first place? This definition doesn't answer this question.

It's a bit like Rudin does the following, he defines

$$\sin(x) = x - \frac{x^3}{3!} + \frac{x^5}{5!} - ...$$

and then he defines ##\pi## as the smallest positive zero. This definition is correct, it is important and it makes it very easy to derive all the analysis properties. But it doesn't show why I would care about ##\pi##. So in that sense, I don't like the definition.

arildno said:
You are entitled to your opinions, obviously, but not to your own (historical) facts.
I'm not sure how I was listing my own historical facts. To the best of my knowledge the first use of e where e was recognizable in the modern sense is from the standard limit definition - not the integral listed.

Jorriss said:
I'm not sure how I was listing my own historical facts. To the best of my knowledge the first use of e where e was recognizable in the modern sense is from the standard limit definition - not the integral listed.

If we rely on wikipedia, then the first uses of ##e## were very closely linked to logarithms. So the question really is how people historically saw logarithms. Did they see it as an anti-derivative or as the inverse of an exponential function. Personally, I prefer the latter definition, but I don't know about the historical one.

1MileCrash said:
Intergral's definition is about area, it has nothing to do with 1/x's antiderivative as a function.
By the fundamental theorem of calculus, it has *everything* to do with 1/x's antiderivative as a function.

Let's expand upon Integral's integral a bit. Define ##g(x)=\int_1^x \frac {dt}{t}##. Here's the key question: For what value of x is this g(x) equal to one? For lack of a better name, let's call the solution to g(x)=1 e. In other words, e is the unique value that satisfies ##\int_1^e \frac {dt}{t} = 1## (i.e., Integral's integral.)

To find this value e it will help to find the inverse function of g(x). Let's call this inverse function f(x), defined by f(g(x))=x.

That f'(x)=f(x) pops right out of this definition. Since g(1)=0, f(0)=1. These two results immediately lead to ##f(x) = \sum_{n=0}^{\infty} \frac {x^n}{n!}##, from whence ##e = \sum_{n=0}^{\infty} \frac {1}{n!}##.

Of course it actually has everything to do with the functional antiderivative when we know such things.

The point is that the relationship described by the integral does not depend on understanding the relationship between area and antiderivative. This is something that aldrino and I can agree on, and if you are claiming otherwise then any argument you had for the definition being fundamental goes right out the window.

And yes, obviously we can derive other definitions and properties about e from an expression that uniquely describes e.

The point is that the integral definition of e, no matter how important of a question it answers, or how cool it is, does not give any intuitive understanding of why e is important or where it will appear in mathematics. It is the area of this region, OK, so what? Who cares about this region?

If someone asked you what e was and why it was portant, would you really tell them that it was the area of this region? Or even mention that fact?

1MileCrash said:
Of course it actually has everything to do with the functional antiderivative when we know such things.

This is the logic, as I learned it in an analysis course (note, "real analysis" not "Calc 1".)

First, define the idea of derivatives (for example using the epsilon-delta definition) and antiderivatives.

Then you can easily prove that the derivative of ##x^n## is ##nx^{n-1}##, for all ##n \ne 0##.

That leaves an unanswered question: what is the antiderivative ##A(x)## of ##1/x##?

You can prove that ##A(x)## has the properties of a logarithm, to some (unknown) base - for example ##A(xy) = A(x) + A(y)## - direct from the definition of the antiderivative.

So you can write ##A(x) = \log_e x##, and Integral's integral defines the value of ##e##.

It then follows that the derivative of the inverse function, ##e^x##, is ##e^x##, and hence we get the power series for ##e^x##.

And after jumping through those hoops to motivate the definition, it's much simpler just to define ##e^x## as a power series (for all complex values of ##x## not just real values), and define ##\ln x## as the inverse function of ##e^x##.

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Wow! That's a lot of discussion for such a simple statement. Obviously area is a more fundamental concept then rate of change. History shows that area has been a useful concept since the very first writings of mankind, rate of change is a much later and subtler concept.

Expressing e as a upper limit in a integral is not the most computable way of going about it. But for me tying it to a simple geometry is much more meaningful then expressing it as an infinite series or any other more esoteric definitions.

This integral is a large portion of the reason e shows up in nature as much as it does.

I guess it depends which bits of nature you look at. You could argue that ##e^{iz} = \cos z + i \sin z## shows up just as much as the integral.

Personally I find the connection with ##\lim_{n \rightarrow \infty}(1 + \frac 1 n) ^n## the least motivational approach.

But mathematicians are fairly agnostic about the "right way" to define things. Back in my day, if a math exam paper asked you to prove three results about X, it was perfectly acceptable to define X three different ways for the three proofs, without bothering to show that the definitions were equivalent!

AlephZero said:
Back in my day, if a math exam paper asked you to prove three results about X, it was perfectly acceptable to define X three different ways for the three proofs, without bothering to show that the definitions were equivalent!

As it should be, since you weren't asked to prove the equivalence of those definitions.

Wish I could remember where I read about the early origin of e, long before it was known.

What I read stated that farmers that grow seed crops need to put a certain amount of the seed crop aside to plant the next season... but a portion of that put aside will actually be accounting for the seed crop to be put aside for the season after that, and so on ad infinitum, converging to what would later be found as e.

So staying above e was crucial to surviving... anyone ever hear about this?

AlephZero said:
Personally I find the connection with ##\lim_{n \rightarrow \infty}(1 + \frac 1 n) ^n## the least motivational approach.
This was how I recall first learning about ##e## in high school. It was motivated by the subject of compound interest. We start with some initial sum ##C## and put it in the bank at an interest rate of ##r##.

How much will this grow after one year? It depends on how often the interest is paid. If paid annually, we will simply have ##C(1+r)##.

More generally, if it is paid ##n## times per year, then we will have ##C(1+r/n)^n##, which is larger than ##C(1+r)## because we were able to earn interest on each interest payment in addition to our original sum.

The best case would be if interest was paid continuously, in which case we get ##Ce^r##, where we have defined ##e = \lim_{n\rightarrow \infty}(1+1/n)^n##.

Of course, we have to prove that this limit exists and perform the simple change of variables to evaluate ##\lim_{n\rightarrow \infty}(1+r/n)^n##.

I certainly found this more motivating than any of the competing definitions. But I like money.

1. What is the significance of e=2.7 in science?

The mathematical constant e, also known as Euler's number, is a fundamental constant in mathematics and has many applications in science, particularly in calculus and exponential growth. It is approximately equal to 2.7 and is often used to model natural phenomena such as population growth and radioactive decay.

2. Who discovered e=2.7?

The discovery of e=2.7 is credited to Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler, who first introduced the concept of the number in the 18th century. However, the value of e has been studied and used by many mathematicians throughout history, including John Napier and Jacob Bernoulli.

3. How was e=2.7 discovered?

Euler discovered e=2.7 by studying the properties of logarithms and exponential functions. He noticed that the limit of (1+1/n)^n as n approaches infinity was a constant value, which we now know as e. He also derived the formula for calculating e as the sum of an infinite series, which is still used today.

4. What are some real-life applications of e=2.7?

The constant e has many practical applications in fields such as finance, biology, and physics. It is used to calculate compound interest, model population growth and decay, and describe the behavior of electric circuits. It is also used in statistics and probability to calculate the expected value of a continuous random variable.

5. How is e=2.7 related to other mathematical constants?

Euler's number e is closely related to other important mathematical constants, such as pi and the imaginary unit i. For example, the complex exponential function e^(ix) can be used to represent circular motion, and the formula e^(pi*i) + 1 = 0 is known as Euler's identity. Additionally, e is a key component in the natural logarithm function, which is used to solve exponential equations.

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