(ca. 225 – 295 AD)

The perspicacious Liu Hui is regarded by many as the greatest of all Chinese mathematicians. Although geometry and geodesy were his habitat, he explored algebra, arithmetic, metrology, and other branches of maths which existed in his era: improving upon Zhang Heng’s brilliant foundations. He is credited with the incorporation of negative numbers into arithmetic. 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 Nine Chapters on the Mathematical Art). One of his acclaimed treatises: Haidao Suanjing (i.e. The Sea Island Mathematical Manual) served as addendum which augmented the Chapter 9 of Jiuzhang Suanshu. Some math methods he developed for cartography, surveying and engineering, (including what we now call the Gaussian Elimination and the Cavalieri’s Principle), were so advanced that Europeans did not encounter them until circa 1300 years later. The brilliance of his works caused his fame to reverberate across Asia. Neighboring Indians, Koreans, Japanese, Persians and Arabs learned from him. Middle Eastern merchants and scholars, who ventured into Far East, brought back his treatises. It was some of these works, which Muhammad Al-Khwarizmi translated, updated and disseminated, that Leonardo Fibonacci brought to Europe during his medieval voyages. Their rich contents not only enlightened Europeans; they helped set the stage for several groundbreaking Renaissance-era initiatives. 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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