Bergen, Norway

Master's

Language: English

Subject area: economy and administration

University website: www.nhh.no/en/

Analysis is the process of breaking a complex topic or substance into smaller parts in order to gain a better understanding of it. The technique has been applied in the study of mathematics and logic since before Aristotle (384–322 B.C.), though analysis as a formal concept is a relatively recent development.

Now analysis is of two kinds, the one directed to searching for the truth and called theoretical, the other directed to finding what we are told to find and called problematical. (1) In the theoretical kind we assume what is sought as if it were existent and true, after which we pass through its successive consequences, as if they too were true and established by virtue of our hypothesis, to something admitted: then (a), if that something admitted is true, that which is sought will also be true and the proof will correspond in the reverse order to the analysis, but (b), if we come upon something admittedly false, that which is sought will also be false. (2) In the problematical kind we assume that which is propounded as if it were known, after which we pass through its successive consequences, taking them as true, up to something admitted: if then (a) what is admitted is possible and obtainable, that is, what mathematicians call given, what was originally proposed will also be possible, and the proof will again correspond in reverse order to the analysis, but if (b) we come upon something admittedly impossible, the problem will also be impossible.

Pappus, (c. 330 AD) as quoted by Thomas Little Heath, The Thirteen Books of Euclid's Elements (1908) Vol. 1, Ch. IX. §6.

[A]t the close of the Middle Ages, when the so-called Arabic figures became established throughout Europe with the symbol 0 and the principle of local value, immediate progress was made in the art of reckoning. The problems... led up to the general solutions of equations of the third and fourth degree by the Italian mathematicians of the sixteenth century. Yet even these discoveries were made in somewhat the same manner as problems in mental arithmetic are now solved in common schools; for the present signs of plus, minus, and equality, the radical and exponential signs, and especially the systematic use of letters for denoting general quantities in algebra, had not yet become universal. The last step was definitively due to... Vieta... and the mighty advancement of analysis resulting therefrom can hardly be measured or imagined.

Thomas J. McCormack, "Joseph Louis Lagrange. Biographical Sketch" (1898) in his translation of Joseph Louis Lagrange, Lectures on Elementary Mathematics (1898); 2nd edition (1901) p. viii.

The word Analysis signifies the general and particular heads of a discourse, with their mutual connections, both co-ordinate and subordinate, drawn out into one or more tables.

Isaac Watts, reported in Austin Allibone ed. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. (1903), p. 34