Who Exactly Invented Math?

Mathematics permeates every single area of our modern lives, but who do we have to thank for this important field?
Trevor English

Mathematics is at the center of our modern world, whether we'd like to admit it or not. Behind our smartphones, our cars, our computers, even the weather, math is quietly working to calculate the past, present, and future. Math is a scientific principle that seems to predate even science itself.

When you stop and think about it though, who was the first person to use math? After all, we know famous inventors of specific equations, but what about for math as a concept? This doesn't seem like too far off of a proposition either given that modern realms of science have founders, like Max Planck, the father of quantum mechanics or Isaac Newton and calculus. So, who invented mathematics?

The Invention of Math 

The origins of mathematics date back to early pre-historic times that were, well, prehistory. That means that we have no proof of the origins of the first use of mathematics, but we can infer. The first peoples on earth would've had to deal with principles of number, magnitude, and form on a daily basis. From deciding which berry to eat or which basic task accomplished the most work in the shortest amount of time. 

In a hunter-gatherer culture, you early humans also would've had to have dealt with the division of food evenly throughout the community. So there would've needed to have been some method of mathematical distribution.

As for actual evidence of these first practices, we have artifacts dating back 20,000 years in Africa that present some of the first conceptual theories of time. 

Geometry was one of the first subsets of mathematics that was likely formed as well. We have evidence dating to the fifth Millenium B.C. demonstrating Egyptian's knowledge of geometric principles.

The early years of math

For the early years of math, cultures existed largely siloed into their own communities and geographical areas. This meant that each region developed its own means of doing math that slowly evolved to reflect the core principles of the mathematical laws of nature.

Each roughly 6000 years ago can be traced through a lineage of discovering addition, multiplication, and division.

Mesopotamian and Egyptian societies likely made the largest advancements in early mathematics simply due to their age of existence and their overall size and resources.


More advanced mathematical methods started developing in Greece around 2,500 years ago. These are specific formulas and theorems like the work of Pythagoras or Euclid. 

Most experts in the realm of mathematics agree that around 2,500 years ago was the first time that humanity as a whole saw the foundation of organized science. This means that the world, roughly as one, started working together and sharing knowledge of math and science.

All of the previously siloed work that was being done throughout various other cultures in the millennia prior slowly started to be integrated into one joint collection of knowledge.

It was from this point onward that the question of "who invented math?" can be answered a little better. Not only do we have a firm history of the founders of modern mathematics, but there are also specific people to come up with specific formulas. 

The answer to the question of who invented math is, disappointingly, everyone and no one at the same time. If you'd like to learn about all of the different regions of mathetics. The video below lays them out fairly comprehensively. You'll note that there are so many subsets of mathematics it's hard to even grasp who the most prominent mathematicians in modern history are. Take a look.

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