Stanford mathematician and NPR Weekend Edition contributor Keith Devlin.

Over a decade ago, mathematician Keith Devlin, also known as “The Math Guy” on NPR’s Weekend Edition, set out to research the life and legacy of Leonardo of Pisa, better known as Fibonacci. The Italian mathematician introduced the Hindu-Arabic numeral system and arithmetic to the Western world. “Finding Fibonacci” details Devlin’s journey to revive the long-forgotten mathematician and the people who devoted their lives to understanding his legacy.

Finding the Real Fibonacci with Mathematician Keith Devlin 19 April,2017Michael Krasny

Guests:
Keith Devlin, Author, "Finding Fibonacci: The Quest to Rediscover the Forgotten Mathematical
Genius Who Changed the World""

  • EIDALM

    I love math, math is the universal language of the universe, without math humans would be still be primitive living in caves, all of our humans advances through the advance of civilization for the last 7 thousands years would not be possible….Advance math enabled the Ancient Egyptians to build great monuments including the great pyramids which is so huge yet the error factor is only couple of inches, also in the year 221 BC a man in Alexandria Egypt used simple math to calculate the circumference of the planet earth with extreme accuracy. Egyptians also using math build near our basis in astronomy and creating the calendar we use today, lots of astronomical maps exact locations and motions of planets and stars…..All of our advances and technical know hoe we made through human civilization were all possible because of math. I can go for ever saying great things about the contribution of math to our quality of live and the advance of our civilization, but I will stop here,

    • Kevin Skipper

      The Egyptians had to practice and learn pyramid building over centuries. Their numerous earlier versions still exist in Sudan, the former location of the Egyptian imperial center.

      • EIDALM

        Not true, the Sudanese pyramids are thousands of years more recent than the Egyptian one, and all were tiny average 10 feet tall.

        • Kevin Skipper

          They’re older, smaller and more numerous as the techniques to build them had to be perfected over time. The Sphinx turns out to be older than all of these structures. Any questions about the order in which Egypt and Nubia appeared need only note the physical characteristics evident on the wall paintings found inside them. The early dynasties show the Asiatic-Negroid Nubians of Hebres descent, with their dark skin and kinky hair, are virtually identical to the earliest Pharoahs. As time went on, Egytptians began to take on the lighter skin, aquiline features and susceptibility to genetic mutation of their Roman and pre-Arabic neighbors.

          • EIDALM

            You are spewing bunch of lies and garbage. Nubia is not Sudan as well….stop the Afro centrist garbage.

          • Kevin Skipper

            LOL. Guess you’re gonna force the highlight reel. Suit yourself.

            Nubia includes Sudan, Nigeria and Ethiopia. Also referred to as KUSH. The Hindu-Kush range of Afghanistan in named after them. Not vice versa.

            You should stop trying now. There is no factual basis for you to argue with me. You can only pull from the same derivative material given to you by Brits and other academic middle men. Not history, just a story to keep them managing your educational and labor markets.

            Don’t be an info slave. We’ve all come to far.

          • EIDALM

            You better go back to elementary school and get educated,about ancient Egypt.

          • Kevin Skipper

            If you’re referring to elementary school-level critique of commonly-held historical record, perhaps I can recommend a remedial middle school course in study skills and reading comprehension.

            Why are we arguing old news? Why argue my civilizational history with the historically myopic or critically astigmatic? What’s happening today. How are YOU doing, Ei-Dawg? Is there some way that I can help you with what actually applies to you?

            Perhaps a more refined standpoint on immigration and global history could help a tech innovator and leader better navigate the topsy turvy world of global labor politics and laws, thus retaining his purchase on the bucking bronco that is Silicon Valley entrepreneurship? Just a though?

          • Kevin Skipper

            All verbal sparring aside, no offense meant. I ask as a friend. ‘William’ and ‘Rob Thomas’ hit me with similar questions. ‘Brian’ too.

          • Noelle

            I think he’s from Egypt originally.

          • Kevin Skipper

            Really? I didn’t know that. If that’s indeed the case, all the more reason to clarify the current misconceptions regarding the land and its classical history. The current regime in Egypt is, like the U.S., an offshoot of the British Crown and Western Europe’s ideological hegemony as dictated under the multiform sanctions stipulated by Rome, of whose empire we remain part in parcel.

            There is a specific and deliberate confusion over the difference between Egyptian, North African, Muslim, Islamic, Islamist, Arab, Arabian, Arabic, Levant, Levantine, Khemet, Khemetic, Israel, Israeli, Israelite, Hebrew, Zion, Zionist, Khalif, Caliph and Caliphate. It’s a dirty linguistic trick implemented by outside interests to confuse common people and obfuscate the true and vital nature of our interrelatedness and brotherhood.

          • Kevin Skipper

            When discussing Egypt, racialized terminology is to some, superfluous and subject to convenient warping by opponents who claim that racial identity is unimportant and of no consequence to current matters. Usually, these are the same parties who are served by a viewpoint of humanity that is effectively manwashed, whitewashed, and westwashed, in that order. Often, it helps to speak in terms of each Pharaonic dynasty as it’s existence coincided with what we know of the world around it at the same time. You’ll find that most pro-Westerners shy away from this approach in favor of generalizations and surrogate terms. Again, convenient to those served by such a tact.

          • Another Mike

            Kevin, I think it’s the word you used that traditionally refers to people from the subcontinent.
            The people who decorated the plus sign, and gave it a Sanskrit word.

          • Kevin Skipper

            Do you mean Hindu? It’s actually just another blanket term. Take away the British aspiration and it’s ‘indu, as in the river Indus which flows between it and Pakistan. Gives credence to assertions that see an obvious link between the likely source of the peoples and the cultures of the regions known to be the seminal locations of pre-European Western Civilization.

            The term ‘Hindu’ as a religion is a general reference to the myriad post Tantric forms of the polytheistic pantheon seen across South and Southeast Asia and greater Oceania.

          • Another Mike

            Egyptians are Semites and Hamites as far as I know.

          • Kevin Skipper

            lol. corrected your factual error but for some mysterious reason, my comment won’t post… why don’t I try this….

            Hamites are Caananites. Egyptians began as post 1) _____ but their political goals led then to mix heavily with Cannanites and later 2)______ Arabs (descendants of Japheth, Noah’s other son).

            Today, 3)_____ from European descendants of Japheth, claim Semitic Heritage. By the same manner, they plaster the title of Hamite to melantated peoples of the America’s and the Asiatic 4)_____/____) realm. This supports the idea that Europeans, under Roman sanctions, stand to receive Hebrew 5)_____, including, but not limited to Israel and ostensibly, Palestine.

            Identity crisis of the most severe and deluded sort..

          • Kevin Skipper

            See? See how that algorithm works!?!?!? The truth is officially NOT ALLOWED IN WRITING!!! Thanks, Disqus for proving my conspiracy theory right.

            Anyway. Can you fill in the blanks?

          • Brian

            I think he’s referring to the Meroe pyramids and the conquest of Egypt by Kushites.

        • Kevin Skipper

          As told to you be perfidious Brits. Don’t trust them. They see you and other Yanks as inferior and not worthy of being told the truth.

  • EIDALM

    The ancient Egyptian followed by Arabs played a major role in formulating math, from advance in the field of algebra, to geometry and trigonometry, as well as the science of logarithm and calculus, their invention of zero revolutionized the whole subject of math as well,,,,The whole advances of our science and technology within the last 3oo years were only possible because of the contribution of ancient Egyptians and Arabs to math and science.

    • Kevin Skipper

      Who gave it to the Egyptians? Moses, a Hebrew, was able to hide among them. Hebrews like him and Jesus Christ were able to hide among Egyptians, Syrians, and Nigerians alike, undetected and visually indistinguishable. Could that be a clue as to how the math made into the newly relocated Egyptian capital?

  • Kevin Skipper

    So, Kev, what did you dig up?

    Anything on the Hausa people of Nigeria? How about any of the ofter Hebrews/Caananites known to have spread the science around the illuminated realm?

    Hopefully we can follow this conversation further than the minds from which we extract our favored H-1B recipients.

  • David Kelley

    Pasquales wager …Why isnt it more popular since it is the great equation that can compel the way people could consider the way they believe?

    • Kevin Skipper

      I’ve got a wager for them. What are the odds that this show mentions de Pisa’s Algerian heritage or algebra’s Asiatic Moorish roots.

      Da Vinci was a man of color too. As was Beethoven. As was Mozart. As was Bach. The Medici. The early Czars.

  • EIDALM

    The ancient Egyptian followed by Arabs played a major role in formulating math, from advance in the field of algebra, to geometry and trigonometry, as well as the science of logarithm and calculus, their invention of zero revolutionized the whole subject of math as well,,,,The whole advances of our science and technology within the last 3oo years were only possible because of the controbution of ancient Egyptians and Arabs to math and science.

  • Kevin Skipper

    Yes. Math is hard. We know. History isn’t to difficult, especially among English speakers.

    C’mon, lets get to the the discoveries!!!Leonardo de Pisa wasn’t of Italian heritage. His father, Gulglielmo was Algerian-born, yet history calls him an Italian merchant. How likely is the guest to mention this detail?

  • Kevin Skipper

    Just say that he was of Algerian descent and I’ll leave it alone.

    I’ll NEVER listen to what a Brit says matters about the ethnic or national origin of ANY scientist or mathematicians.

    • Brian

      Are you channeling your inner David Duke right now?

      • Kevin Skipper

        …I must admit, I was on a bit of a rant. The guest’s commentary and response were actually right on. The idea is that ‘we’ refer to these sciences by the accepted time and place in which they were formulated into a unified cannon.

        That said, there is certainly a place to comment on the strict and narrow context in which a culturally relativist West refers to science and history. I tend to lend a cautious ear to the liberties taken by many who speak with a continental accent, especially when it comes to the humanities.

        Still. Sometimes, I feel like I could stand to relax a little….

        • Brian

          It’s OK to delete a posting. I delete mine all the time.

          • Kevin Skipper

            I can rarely bring myself to erase commentary, even when it’s incorrect or downright embarrassing. what’s the point? I figure it’s like college notes, they supposedly come in handy later. Perhaps when I’m giving my Pulitzer Prize rejections speech, I’ll throw a printed sheaf of them into the faces of a dumfounded crowd and sell the rest on AliBaba. I figure I’ll be boycotting Amazon by then and the AliBaba brand plug will help me butter up Emperor Xiping and the rest of our newly revealed Sino-Russian overlords.

  • Kevin Skipper

    ALGEBRA WAS NOT INVENTED BY ARABS. It was translated from Hebrew and other Bronze-age languages BY Arabic-speaking MOORS.
    BIG, HUGE DIFFERENCE.

    The pre-Arab pyramids, astronomy and art could not have been created without it.

    I notice that the phone lines are busy. Not surprised.

    • Noelle

      yay Kevin you got on!

      • Another Mike

        He seemed kind of surprised to get on, at first.

        Callin shows are frustrating, because you never know when you are going to get on, or even if, and you have to hold on to the one comment or question that prompted your call. I’m glad I can type my thoughts.

      • Kevin Skipper

        Thanks. The H-1B confusion was one thing but confusion over the Bonacci name and the origins of sacred geometry was too much. Hindu iconography says, itself that the knowledge, science, and religion was brought to them by humans from whom they had certain fundamental differences. Lack of clarity is one thing but Brits pay their pseudoscientists to push racialized lies. Its worth the time if I can knock that down.

    • Another Mike

      So what are Moors if not Arabs? You can practically walk to Spain from Morocco. Do you mean they were Berbers?

    • Brian

      Nope. It was invented by the Babylonians 2000 years before the cult of Islam started brainwashing people and mistreating non-members.

  • Ben Rawner

    Historically many times mathematicians protected their math secrets in a cult like manner? Could Fibonacci been another one of these math cult figures?

    • Kevin Skipper

      Their work is appropriated by prevailing cults and subsequent cults are built around them. Hides history and science in plain sight.

  • ES Trader

    Professor Devlin, I’ve looked forward to your Scott Simon pieces since you were at St.Mary’s, and in this age of “alternative facts”, look forward to reading your book on a subject that explains the laws of the universe and leverages it for mankind.

  • giulia

    The golden spiral. A chambered Nautilus was my first tattoo.

  • Kevin Skipper

    Math is awesome. It’s the first science. It’s a humanity. Like history, it is a science of order and precedent. What’s beautiful is the way that it grows. Right, Keith? Just like a tree or bamboo, it can’t be held back. One must pity whoever tries to hold it or restrict is to smaller social or political terms only stands to have it blow up in their faces.

    Keep trying to suppress the history of mathematical and scientific genius and it expands past the point of containment.

    Why is it so hard to put it in context? Why the false mystification? What are you hiding? Is denying the color of history part of your dynastic oath of secrecy?

  • Kevin Skipper

    Population management and racial quotas follow the Golden Ratio as well.

    • Brian

      Nonsensical statement. You’re posting like a dog urinates on a tree, to mark territory. But in so doing you seem a fool.

      • Kevin Skipper

        The show mentioned ways in which the golden ratio is used. We were discussing immigration in the last segment. Immigration policies are planned around proportional models as the change over time. These models and the global cultures that reflect their implementation are some of the earliest known applications of discreet math. Planting schedules, yield predictions, and livestock production also used some of the same concepts. Imagine the processed necessary to isolate the cereal grains that were spread over the Egyptian and Roman Empires. Early genetics research that we still use today.

        • Brian

          I need another 2000 words, please.

  • Kevin Skipper

    Here we go. Toss the hot potato back to our adopted brothers in India.

    The Bonacci family name comes from Algeria, not Pisa.

    BTW: Galileo was of ethnic Palestinian heritage.

    • William – SF

      Did your comments just get whitewashed?

      • Kevin Skipper

        Whitewashed in what way? I’m pursuing a solution-based approach. The problem, historical error. The solution: correction and contextualization. “A rising tide…”

        • William – SF

          Yes, I know. Sounded like KD said “blah blah blah … everybody moved around …” Sounded like you were getting to your point and facts when MK cut you off … I felt a rebuttal to KD’s response was due.

          • Another Mike

            Time was running out.
            I liked the last caller, whose math teacher had made an impression on her, by teaching her that she could understand math, and she could apply it to her world.

          • Kevin Skipper

            When she learns history, she’ll understand how to apply the truth to YOUR world. History and Science. I prefer to use my humanities as a jackhammer against calcified dogma and falsified records.

          • Kevin Skipper

            For some, time is running out. As for me, ‘Tiiiiiime is on my side. Yes it is!’ -The Devil’s Own

          • Kevin Skipper

            MK cut me off at just the right point. My next comment, that KD is a limey shill, sent by Brit overlords who want to maintain America’s informational inferiority and keep the tech industry working against us, would have worked against my central thesis that only a hired agent would be willing to restrict the conversation to Europe and post-Arab Africa. KD knew it and he probably collapsed in Krasny’s arms in gratitude.

            KD’s response wasn’t a rebuttal. It was a weak attempt to regroup and suggest that his historical narrative, with the sole exception of a whitewashed late-dynasty Egypt, is virtually hydrophobic. He’s a historical land-lubber. His mind won’t let him cross the Mediterranean or Indian Oceans. Even the short jaunt to Sri Lanka is too much of a leap. The history of the Caribbean peoples the Amazon, the Arauaco, and the Olmecs is to him, too dark to deal with.
            He floundered to suggest that math in the places I mentioned, just AROSE. Appeared out of necessity. Human development, not civilizational or cultural. Give a monkey a typewriter, right?

            He doesn’t like the fact that like gold, hygiene and medicine, math was administered to Europe and Asia by the same colored people who brought customs like clothing, agriculture and the cherished pastoral lifestyle. In fact, if he were to say that outright, he’s be out of a job. Biting the gnarled, clawed hand that feeds him. A freak on a leash.

    • Another Mike

      Italy was the hub of a giant empire, and of course provincials moved there. Similarly, government officials and military fanned out all over the empire.
      Sicily was a great melting pot — I met a red-headed and freckled Sicilian a few years ago.

      • Kevin Skipper

        Your point? I was actualy talking about Algeria as the mine and source, not Italy as the smelting pot. The conversation is about the ORIGINS of Fibonacci and his number system, not its later diaspora.

        Rome was first a trading outpost and later a staging ground for international commerce and military strategies in the service of early population management. Didn’t become an imperial hub until it was ready to act independently of Egypt and Athens.

        • Another Mike

          Even if Bonacci had come from Algeria, he could still have been Italian.
          Did Fibonacci’s knowledge of math even come from his dad? Likely there were plenty of Arabs in Italy: fishers, traders, bankers.

          • Kevin Skipper

            Just like the Apostle Paul, eh? Roman citizen but born in Damascus to a professional father who’s intelligence gained him the honor of citizenship.

            Bonacci’s access to education and exposure was a direct result of his birth to a respectable family, made so by their rich heritage. Same story with the European and American aristocracies. They just aren’t in the habit telling you all that. To them, its more fun to see you cry when your cousins immigrate and take up the role of maintaining your racial privilege. Pranksters, they are.

          • Another Mike

            His dad was named Gugilelmo, likely after the Christian saint William of Aquitaine.

            Now, had his father been named Mohammed, or Ali, or something…

          • Kevin Skipper

            If he was named Ali or Muhammad, it would change virtually nothing as his name would still come from the same Latin, Hebrew and Sanskrit roots as names like Paul, Peter, David, and Jesus and therefore the same people from whom the creation of math, science, history, wealth, color and genius is duly credited.

            There are Palestinians named Ali and Muhammad, yet we don’t question Jerusalem as the ancestral home of Hebrews, do we?*

            *Now that’s a refrigerator magnet!

          • William – SF

            *Bumper sticker, too

          • Kevin Skipper

            Was gonna say that first but had to choose one and didn’t want to plagiarize “Archer.”

          • Kevin Skipper

            Seeing as the Hebrew and Arabic forms of the name are the same, and that Anglo-Saxon, on both sides also comes from proto-Hebrew linguisitc origins, what is to say that William’s name, or for that matter, Bonacci’s as well, are not themselves, liberally Romanticized forms?

            After all, when Bonacci’s birth in Moorish Africa actually PRECEDED the region being ceded to the Gauls by their Roman benefactors. It was still seen as an offshoot of the Iberian Basque region, not a part of what was, at the time considered Europe. Hard to argue that any of what we know as civilized culture, much less seminal mathematics had its origin there without outside imperial nudging.

          • Kevin Skipper

            FACT CHECK: ‘Arabs’ in Italy? Not in the 1100’s. Those who would become the Arabs were still in the mountain ranges between Russia and the Black Sea, under Roman rule and coincidentally, Nubian/Moorish maritime management, as was most of the global population/slave trade.

            The earliest Ar*an-Arab extraction was not moved from Central Asia to Arabia until well AFTER the crusades, much closer to the Renaissance than to the late Roman-era.

            The ‘Arabs’ to which you refer were, in fact, Asiatic Moors. The same color as seen in Carvaggio, Herodotus or Valasquez’ works.

    • Brian

      Nonsense. Here you go again, trying to make wild claims to attribute to the Muslim world anything you can.
      Bonacci briefly lived in North Africa but the name has Italian roots.
      Galileo was always Italian.
      Your lying about history is dishonorable.

      • Kevin Skipper

        He’s named after his family origin: Galilee.

        • Brian

          By that logic you’re descended from Lord Kelvin, because Kelvin sounds like Kevin.

  • Galen

    I love mathematics and always have. I have used discrete, differential, and statistical mathematics at work and in describing to clients roadblocks to deliverable. To me math has always been a kind of poetry that helps us understand both what is, what can be and why. Unfortunately, in american education, math is taught as a memorizing formula, and processes and as a pastern of thought or understanding. Today, with Wolfram Alpha and other calculation engines, we need to teach what maths do and what the solutions mean, not as much how plug in numbers

    • Another Mike

      As Mr. Devlin pointed out, we are taught to manipulate numbers, not how to solve our problems using math. And that’s why students have traditionally struggled with “word problems” — we can’t bridge the gap on our own.

  • Another Mike

    I have read that American students are not taught the necessary prerequisites for geometry, and that’s why so many struggle with it in high school. Thoughts?

    • Kevin Skipper

      Same with history. Same with music.

    • Noelle

      he did give the example of the geometrician he encountered. Geometry was my worst subject, due to the standard teaching of it then was so bad(theorems to be memorized etc)

      • William – SF

        Proving theorems and diagramming sentences are criminal acts.

  • BDN

    Before you go off the air can you please clear up the confusing names Leonardo and Davinci!

    • Noelle

      Leonardo da vinci was the artist from the town of Vinci. Fibonacci was the Leonardo from Pisa.

      • BDN

        A terse excellent answer, thank you, and that’s why we all need complete names derived from paternity / maternity / and birthplace to better help us recall the clown face whats-his-name that escapes us all just when we need it the most.

  • Jon Wiley

    I would like to hear more about the resistance that occurred in Europe when Leonardo of Pisa tried to introduce hindu-arabic numerals.

  • Noelle

    there are several lost generations, lost to math appreciation, lost to any competence in math, due to awful math teachers. I hope math teachers are better now. sad that so many of us were left behind

  • Robert Thomas

    The journalist class in the U.S. is not merely “math-phobic”; journalists are positively hateful toward and suspicious of mathematics.

    H.L. Mencken was a brilliant man who had no education and who dismissed mathematics as religion and slight-of-hand.

    Recently, I heard Steven Coll, the Dean of the Columbia University School of Journalism, offer on the Charlie Rose show that he felt that journalists’ recent failure to predict the electoral behavior of the nation in the recent election was due to too-close attention paid to mathematicians. Along with other comments that mirrored Mencken, he went on to say that journalists are well advised to look upon mathematics with suspicion. This attitude poisons public discourse about a broad range of topics. Paying attention to mathematics is NOT the reason that Seaboard journalists misread the electorate.

    • William – SF

      Amen Brother.

    • Another Mike

      Many many lawyers are math phobic as well. The law requires logical reasoning ability but no knowledge of mathematics beyond arithmetic.

    • Kevin Skipper

      Same Wall Street that hides calculus in mystified currency markets do the same thing in mystified opinion-building markets.

      • Robert Thomas

        Wall Street types talk about derivatives all the time.

        • Kevin Skipper

          They refer to them but don’t admit that their use effectively equates to insider trading. That being said, sounds like a not-bad occupation.

          Job search: Wall Street Typist….

          • Robert Thomas

            It was just a lame math joke.

        • Another Mike

          Wall Street hires “quants” to do the math for them.

          I went to college with the woman who, literally, wrote the book on derivatives. She had studied chemical engineering, then went to work for an oil company, which paid for her MBA. But her husband wanted to move to Iran where he was from. (He was a grad student when we were in undergrad.) Which they did, right before the revolution.

          • Robert Thomas

            The vicissitudes of history.

            But I was just making a crummy math joke.

          • Another Mike

            Ah.
            That kind of derivative.

  • EIDALM

    I taught Math for near 20 years to Silicon Valley VP,s and to high school teachers, I was totally shocked about many of them were real poor in their math knowledge as well many showed extreme fear of of math, but after real hard work on my part as well the students themselves, I was very successful in getting every one to better understand math, and near all of the students did real well in their exams.

Host

Michael Krasny

Michael Krasny, PhD, has been in broadcast journalism since 1983. He was with ABC in both radio and television and migrated to public broadcasting in 1993. He has been Professor of English at San Francisco State University and also taught at Stanford, the University of San Francisco and the University of California, as well as in the Fulbright International Institutes. A veteran interviewer for the nationally broadcast City Arts and Lectures, he is the author of a number of books, including “Off Mike: A Memoir of Talk Radio and Literary Life” (Stanford University Press) “Spiritual Envy” (New World); “Sound Ideas” (with M.E. Sokolik/ McGraw-Hill); “Let There Be Laughter” (Harper-Collins) as well as the twenty-four lecture series in DVD, audio and book, “Short Story Masterpieces” (The Teaching Company). He has interviewed many of the world’s leading political, cultural, literary, science and technology figures, as well as major figures from the world of entertainment. He is the recipient of many awards and honors including the S.Y. Agnon Medal for Intellectual Achievement; The Eugene Block Award for Human Rights Journalism; the James Madison Freedom of Information Award; the Excellence in Journalism Award from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association; Career Achievement Award from the Society of Professional Journalists and an award from the Radio and Television News Directors Association. He holds a B.A. (cum laude) and M.A. from Ohio University and a PhD from the University of Wisconsin.

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