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Transcript john-nye-presentation2013-09

Math and Graphs in History
John V.C. Nye
Capitalism and Arithmetic
 Frank Swetz studied how the use and
teaching of mathematics was
influenced by the switch from Roman
to Arabic numerals in 15th century
 Traditional universities clung to
Roman numerals
 But arabic numerals allowed rapid,
accurate computation
Advice in the 1400s
 “…if the mathematical curriculum of the
young man was to be confined to adding
and subtracting, he could perhaps obtain
instructions in a German university; but the
art of multiplying and dividing, he
continued, had been greatly developed in
Italy which, in his opinion, was the only
country where such advanced instruction
could be obtained (Swetz, 1987, 14-15).”
An easy example
 XCV / V=XIX (- II + XX + I)
remainder was XII)
Italians start first
 Leonardo of Pisa learns and starts to
promote Hindu-Arabic system starting in
 Spread to counting houses and was helpful
in pioneering double-entry bookkeeping
 Other nations’ universities devalued
arithmetic and calculation and focused on
logic, rhetoric, and grammar
 Italy was first nation to support lectures in
algebra and to have a chair in computation
Rise of counting schools
 Private schools to promote
computational learning
 Typical curriculum: multiplication,
division, fractions, and information
about local monetary systems
 It took several centuries for the
leading universities in Europe to
adopt knowledge from the hinduarabic system
Graphs and Statistics
 Much of modern analysis is about
combining numerical information with
visual maps to help us SEE the
John Snow and Cholera
 On August 31,1854 an outbreak of
cholera in Soho, London led to the
deaths of 127 in three days. Within a
month 500 had died and most
families fled the area.
 He showed that cholera spread was
tied to the location of a pump and
contaminated water using a graph
mapping statistical deaths
Old views of cholera
 Early theories focused on “miasma in
the atmosphere”
 Nothing was done to contain cholera
 Several tens of thousands of people
died from 1831 to 1854 in England
Deaths from Cholera
Location of victims and exceptions
 Clusters around water pump at broad
 Virtually no cases near the brewery
where they didn’t drink the local
water directly
 Poland street warehouse, few cases
but they had their own water
Economics and Economic History
 Modern economics and modern
economic history rose up with the
development of improved
mathematics and better statistical
Simon Kuznets and GDP
 During the Great Depression, Kuznets
and a team at the National Bureau of
Econ Research were tasked with
creating overall measures of U.S.
economy beginning in the 1930s.
First report comes out in 1937
Major accomplishments
 1930s early GDP figures
 1940s national estimates to aid wartime
planning; parallel measures in Europe
 1950s and 60; detailed measures to help
with economic growth, planning, measures
of personal income, input-output tables
 1960s and 1970s improved price indices for
Early Quantitative Econ History
 Initially descriptive
 Minimal use of economic analysis
 Big focus on Industrial Revolution but
an overemphasis on individual
Economics and History
 By late 1950s more economists
applying micro and macro theory and
simple statistics to historical issues
 Conrad and Meyer in 1958 published
the first paper using statistical
techniques to show that slavery was
profitable in the United States South.
Cliometric Society
 Began with an annual conference in
1960 bringing together young
scholars using statistical and
economic tools for the study of
 Early participants included Douglass
North, William Parker, Robert Fogel,
JRT Hughes, Alexander Gerschenkron,
Lance Davis.
Early Work
Industrial Revolution
Ocean Shipping
American Slavery
Internal and International Trade of
the United States and Britain
Personal Research
 Why The British Drink Beer Not Wine
 Did Soviet Grandmasters Collude in
Candidates’ Chess Tournaments?
 Do Countries Systematically Falsify
Economic Data?
 Are Babies Born in the Year of the
Dragon More Successful?