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e: The Story of a Number by Eli Maor

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6

Prelude to Breakthrough

Infinities and indivisibles transcend our finite understanding, the former on account of their magnitude, the latter because of their smallness; Imagine what they are when combined.—GALILEO GALILEI as Salviati in Dialogues Concerning Two New Sciences (1638)1

About eighteen hundred years after Archimedes, a French mathematician by the name of François Viète (or Vieta, 1540–1603), in the course of his work in trigonometry, found a remarkable formula involving the number π:

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The discovery of this infinite product in 1593 marked a milestone in the history of mathematics: it was the first time an infinite process was explicitly ...

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