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Wang Xiaotong (王孝通) (A.D. 580–640), also known as Wang Hs'iao-t'ung, was a Chinese mathematician. He is famous as the author of the Jigu suanjing (Continuation of Ancient Mathematics) one of The Ten Classics.

He presented this work to Li Yuan the first emperor of the Tang dynasty, along with a brief biography.

According to this autobiography, he became interested in mathematics at a young age. After a study of the Nine Chapters on the Mathematical Art and particularly Liu Hui's commentary on it, Wang became a teacher of mathematics, and later deputy director of the Astronomical Bureau.

It was known that the Chinese calendar at that time was in need of reform since, although only in operation for a few years, already predictions of eclipses were getting out of step. In 623, together with Zu Xiaosun, a Civil Servant, he was assigned to report on problems with the calendar--although only recently adopted, it was already out of step with the eclipses. In fact Wang did not approach this is a sophisticated way; he proposed to ignore the irregularity of the sun's motion and also the precession of the equinoxes -- both had already been incorporated in calendar calculations by Zu Chongzhi in the fifth century.

However, his major contribution was the Jigu suanjing (Continuation of Ancient Mathematics), which became a text for the Imperial examinations; it was included as one of The Ten Classics when reprinted in 1084. The book contains 20 problems based mostly on engineering construction sand right angled triangles, but which in essence deal with the solution of cubic equations, the first known Chinese work to deal with them.

Wang's work influence later Chinese mathematicians, but it is said that it was his ideas on cubic equations which influenced Fibonacci after transmission via the Islamic world.


* J-C Martzloff, A history of Chinese mathematics (Berlin-Heidelberg, 1997).
* J-C Martzloff, Histoire des mathématiques chinoises (Paris, 1987).
* Y Mikami, The Development of Mathematics in China and Japan (New York, 1974).
* B Qian (ed.), Ten Mathematical Classics (Chinese) (Beijing, 1963).
* Y Ruan, Biographies of Mathematicians and Astronomers (Chinese) 1 (Shanghai, 1955).
* K Shen, J N Crossley and A W-C Lun, The nine chapters on the mathematical art : Companion and commentary (Beijing, 1999).

External links

* page at MacTutor History of Mathematics


Mathematics Encyclopedia

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