(March 1642 – December 5, 1708)
This reposeful and self-taught prodigy is Japan’s greatest mathematician. He was as well the preeminent science icon during the period of Tokugawa shogunate (i.e. the last era of feudal military governance of Japan: lasting from 1603 to 1867). Some Western publications tagged him “Japan’s Isaac Newton”. Several of these books and journals designate his name as either “Seki Kowa” or “Seki Takakazu”, whereas others simply use “Seki Kowa Takakazu”. As samurai scion, he never failed to wrap his prodigious disposition with courtesy and self-effacement. He singlehandedly reinvented the Wasan, which is traditional Japanese mathematics: so named, in order to distinguish it from Western-styled maths (which the Japanese refer to as Yosan). He is also credited with developing the Enri, which was Japan’s equivalent of calculus (prior to European ascendancy). It is intriguing that Seki Kowa Takakazu lived in the same period as Isaac Newton, Gottfried Leibniz and the Bernoullis: faraway from Europe; yet, worked independently on similar problems and discovered similar parameters. His interest in astronomy saw him contributing to the developments of geometry, trigonometry and algebra. Among his numerous publications is the highly regarded Hatsubi Sampo, which tendered solutions with stringent proofs to various math problems. In addition to that, he amassed Chinese and Japanese texts with which he educated students (like Takebe Kenko) in maths and astronomy. Seki Kowa Takakazu is highly revered in today’s Japan; and through his superb works, remains influential in many parts of the world. The 18-kilometer wide asteroid, 7483 Sekitakakazu, is named after him.