# Method of normals

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In calculus, the method of normals was a technique invented by Descartes for finding normal and tangent lines to curves. It represented one of the earliest methods for constructing tangents to curves. The method hinges on the observation that the radius of a circle is always normal to the circle itself. With this in mind Descartes would construct a circle that was tangent to a given curve. He could then use the radius at the point of intersection to find the slope of a normal line, and from this one can easily find the slope of a tangent line.

Calculus is the mathematical study of continuous change, in the same way that geometry is the study of shape and algebra is the study of generalizations of arithmetic operations.

In geometry, the tangent line to a plane curve at a given point is the straight line that "just touches" the curve at that point. Leibniz defined it as the line through a pair of infinitely close points on the curve. More precisely, a straight line is said to be a tangent of a curve y = f (x) at a point x = c on the curve if the line passes through the point (c, f ) on the curve and has slope f'(c) where f' is the derivative of f. A similar definition applies to space curves and curves in n-dimensional Euclidean space.

In mathematics, a curve is, generally speaking, an object similar to a line but that need not be straight. Thus, a curve is a generalization of a line, in that its curvature need not be zero.

This was discovered about the same time as Fermat's method of adequality. While Fermat's method had more in common with the infinitesimal techniques that were to be used later, Descartes' method was more influential in the early history of calculus. ( Katz 2008 )

Adequality is a technique developed by Pierre de Fermat in his treatise Methodus ad disquirendam maximam et minimam to calculate maxima and minima of functions, tangents to curves, area, center of mass, least action, and other problems in calculus. According to André Weil, Fermat "introduces the technical term adaequalitas, adaequare, etc., which he says he has borrowed from Diophantus. As Diophantus V.11 shows, it means an approximate equality, and this is indeed how Fermat explains the word in one of his later writings.". Diophantus coined the word παρισότης (parisotēs) to refer to an approximate equality. Claude Gaspard Bachet de Méziriac translated Diophantus's Greek word into Latin as adaequalitas. Paul Tannery's French translation of Fermat’s Latin treatises on maxima and minima used the words adéquation and adégaler.

In mathematics, infinitesimals are things so small that there is no way to measure them. The insight with exploiting infinitesimals was that entities could still retain certain specific properties, such as angle or slope, even though these entities were quantitatively small. The word infinitesimal comes from a 17th-century Modern Latin coinage infinitesimus, which originally referred to the "infinite-th" item in a sequence. Infinitesimals are a basic ingredient in the procedures of infinitesimal calculus as developed by Leibniz, including the law of continuity and the transcendental law of homogeneity. In common speech, an infinitesimal object is an object that is smaller than any feasible measurement, but not zero in size—or, so small that it cannot be distinguished from zero by any available means. Hence, when used as an adjective, "infinitesimal" means "extremely small". To give it a meaning, it usually must be compared to another infinitesimal object in the same context. Infinitely many infinitesimals are summed to produce an integral.

One reason Descartes' method fell from favor was the algebraic complexity it involved. On the other hand this method can be used to rigorously define the derivative for a wide class of functions using neither infinitesimal nor limit techniques. It is also related to a completely general definition of differentiability given by Carathéodory ( Range 2011 ).

In mathematics, a limit is the value that a function "approaches" as the input "approaches" some value. Limits are essential to calculus and are used to define continuity, derivatives, and integrals.

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In classical mathematics, analytic geometry, also known as coordinate geometry or Cartesian geometry, is the study of geometry using a coordinate system. This contrasts with synthetic geometry.

Mathematical analysis is the branch of mathematics dealing with limits and related theories, such as differentiation, integration, measure, infinite series, and analytic functions.

In mathematics, differential calculus is a subfield of calculus concerned with the study of the rates at which quantities change. It is one of the two traditional divisions of calculus, the other being integral calculus, the study of the area beneath a curve.

In mathematics, curvature is any of a number of loosely related concepts in different areas of geometry. Intuitively, curvature is the amount by which a geometric object such as a surface deviates from being a flat plane, or a curve from being straight as in the case of a line, but this is defined in different ways depending on the context. There is a key distinction between extrinsic curvature, which is defined for objects embedded in another space – in a way that relates to the radius of curvature of circles that touch the object – and intrinsic curvature, which is defined in terms of the lengths of curves within a Riemannian manifold.

In mathematics and physics, a brachistochrone curve, or curve of fastest descent, is the one lying on plane between a point A and a lower point B, where B is not directly below A, on which a bead slides frictionlessly under the influence of a uniform gravitational field to a given end point in the shortest time. The problem was posed by Johann Bernoulli in 1696.

Gilles Personne de Roberval, French mathematician, was born at Roberval near Beauvais, France. His name was originally Gilles Personne or Gilles Personier, with Roberval the place of his birth.

La Géométrie was published in 1637 as an appendix to Discours de la méthode, written by René Descartes. In the Discourse, he presents his method for obtaining clarity on any subject. La Géométrie and two other appendices, also by Descartes, La Dioptrique (Optics) and Les Météores (Meteorology), were published with the Discourse to give examples of the kinds of successes he had achieved following his method.

In mathematics, the witch of Agnesi is a cubic plane curve defined from two diametrically opposite points of a circle. It gets its name from Italian mathematician Maria Gaetana Agnesi, and from a mistranslation of an Italian word for a sailing sheet. Before Agnesi, the same curve was studied by Fermat, Grandi, and Newton.

Calculus, known in its early history as infinitesimal calculus, is a mathematical discipline focused on limits, functions, derivatives, integrals, and infinite series. Isaac Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz independently discovered calculus in the mid-17th century. However, both inventors claimed that the other had stolen his work, and the Leibniz-Newton calculus controversy continued until the end of their lives.

In differential geometry of curves, the osculating circle of a sufficiently smooth plane curve at a given point p on the curve has been traditionally defined as the circle passing through p and a pair of additional points on the curve infinitesimally close to p. Its center lies on the inner normal line, and its curvature is the same as that of the given curve at that point. This circle, which is the one among all tangent circles at the given point that approaches the curve most tightly, was named circulus osculans by Leibniz.

In Euclidean plane geometry, Apollonius's problem is to construct circles that are tangent to three given circles in a plane (Figure 1). Apollonius of Perga posed and solved this famous problem in his work Ἐπαφαί ; this work has been lost, but a 4th-century AD report of his results by Pappus of Alexandria has survived. Three given circles generically have eight different circles that are tangent to them (Figure 2), a pair of solutions for each way to divide the three given circles in two subsets.

In geometry, the folium of Descartes is an algebraic curve defined by the equation

Pierre de Fermat was a French lawyer at the Parlement of Toulouse, France, and a mathematician who is given credit for early developments that led to infinitesimal calculus, including his technique of adequality. In particular, he is recognized for his discovery of an original method of finding the greatest and the smallest ordinates of curved lines, which is analogous to that of differential calculus, then unknown, and his research into number theory. He made notable contributions to analytic geometry, probability, and optics. He is best known for his Fermat's principle for light propagation and his Fermat's Last Theorem in number theory, which he described in a note at the margin of a copy of Diophantus' Arithmetica.

Visual calculus, invented by Mamikon Mnatsakanian, is an approach to solving a variety of integral calculus problems. Many problems that would otherwise seem quite difficult yield to the method with hardly a line of calculation, often reminiscent of what Martin Gardner calls "aha! solutions" or Roger Nelsen a proof without words.

A timeline of calculus and mathematical analysis.

Elementary Calculus: An Infinitesimal approach is a textbook by H. Jerome Keisler. The subtitle alludes to the infinitesimal numbers of the hyperreal number system of Abraham Robinson and is sometimes given as An approach using infinitesimals. The book is available freely online and is currently published by Dover.

In geometry, Cavalieri's principle, a modern implementation of the method of indivisibles, named after Bonaventura Cavalieri, is as follows:

## References

• Katz, V. (2008), A History of Mathematics:An Introduction, Addison Wesley
• Range, R. Michael (May 2011), "Where Are Limits Needed in Calculus?", American Mathematical Monthly, 118 (5): 404–417, doi:10.4169/amer.math.monthly.118.05.404

In computing, a Digital Object Identifier or DOI is a persistent identifier or handle used to identify objects uniquely, standardized by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). An implementation of the Handle System, DOIs are in wide use mainly to identify academic, professional, and government information, such as journal articles, research reports and data sets, and official publications though they also have been used to identify other types of information resources, such as commercial videos.