(ca. 220 – 290 AD)

The perspicacious but unassuming Liu Hui is regarded by many as the greatest of all Chinese mathematicians. Although geometry and geodesy were his habitat, he explored surveying, cartography, civil engineering, metrology, arithmetic and every other branch of maths which existed in his era: improving upon the foundations laid-out by the great Zhang Heng (and those after him). He is credited with the incorporation of negative numbers as valid and valuable Arithmetic units. And his works on both plane and solid geometries were novelties. More of his ingenuities manifested in his annotations, corrections, and solutions to the generations-long Jiuzhang Suanshu (i.e. the Chinese book famously referred to as The Nine Chapters on the Mathematical Art). These caused his fame to reverberate across the whole of Asia and the Middle East. Neighboring Indians, Koreans, Japanese, Persians and Arabs learned from his publications. Mid-Eastern merchants and scholars, who ventured into the Far East, brought back his treatises. It was some of these works, which Muhammad Al-Khwarizmi translated, updated, and preserved, that Leonardo Fibonacci, brought back to Europe during his medieval voyages. Their rich contents not only enlightened Europeans; they helped set the stage for the Renaissance. Thus, it could be said that Liu Hui’s mathematical artistry continued to transform Europe and the wider world more than a millennium after his death.


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