2012 New History
P. O. Box 1-44, Nankang, Taipei 11529, Taiwan, R. O. C.
02-2782-9555 # 226

The Place of Wang Lai in the History of Chinese Mathematics

Wann-Sheng Horng

Department of Mathematics, National Taiwan Normal University

C. F. Gauss (1777-1855), one of the greatest (German) mathematicians, is regarded as one of the most significant figures dividing the 18th and 19th centuries (Western) mathematics. By parallelism, Wang Lai (1768-1813) perhaps can be taken to be the Chinese counterpart. In this article, the author will try to explain to what extent Wang Lai and his mathematics can serve to make a distinction between these two centuries. In fact, in contrast to mathematical practitioners closely associated with the Qian-Jia school, Wang Lai played a role very dramatically leading Chinese mathematics Western-oriented. It seems that at the end of the 18th century, the first part of Book Four of the Heng Zhai Suanxue (Collected Mathematical Works of Wang Lai, 1799) was better to conclude the Qian-Jia school and 18th-century Chinese mathematics than Ruan Yuan’s Chouren Zhuang (Biography of Mathematical Astronomers, 1799). On the other hand, Book Fifth of the Heng Zhai Suanxue (1801), which covered Wang Lai’s study of the theory of equations by his own adaptation of Western concepts and terminology, led Chinese mathematicians like Luo Shilin (1789-1853), Xiang Mingda (1789-1850), Xu Youren (1800-1860), Dai Xu (1805-1860), Gu Guanguang (1799-1882), Xia Luanxiang (1823-1864), Zou Boqi (1819-1869) and Li Shanlan (1811-1882) into the 19th century.

Keywords: Gauss, Wang Lai, Qian-Jia school, Heng Zhai Suan Xue