(circa 225 – 295 AD)

The perspicacious Liu Hui is regarded by many pundits as China’s greatest mathematician. Although geodesy and geometry were his habitat, he succeeded in revamping algebra, arithmetic, metrology, and other branches of maths which existed during his era: improving upon Zhang Heng’s brilliant foundations. He was particularly extolled for: introducing negative numbers into mathematics, enhancing pi-value, and novelty works on both plane and solid geometries. 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 titled Haidao Suanjing (i.e. The Sea Island Mathematical Manual) was designed as addendum to the Chapter 9 of Jiuzhang Suanshu. Various algorithms he developed for cartography, surveying and engineering, (including what are now referred to as the Gaussian Elimination and the Cavalieri’s Principle), were so advanced that Europeans never encountered them until 1300 years later. The brilliance of his works caused his fame to reverberate throughout Asia. Neighboring Indians, Koreans, and Japanese learned from him. Middle Eastern merchants and scholars, who ventured into the Far East, brought back versions of 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 were crucial in setting the stage for several groundbreaking Renaissance-era initiatives. Thus, it could be said that Liu Hui’s perspicacity continued to transform Europe (and the wider world) well-over a millennium after his death.


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