# Definition:Equals/Historical Note

Jump to navigation
Jump to search

## Historical Note on Equals

The **equals sign** was introduced by Robert Recorde in his $1557$ work *The Whetstone of Witte*.

Placing two long hyphens together, one above the other, he wrote:

*To avoide the tediouse repetition of these woordes: is equalle to: I will sette as I doe often in woorke use, a paire of paralleles, or gemowe lines of one lengthe: $= \!\!\! = \!\!\! = \!\!\! = \!\!\! = \!\!\! = \!\!\! =$, bicause noe .2. thynges, can be moare equalle.*

The word **gemowe** comes from the Latin **geminus** meaning **twin**.

François Viète used the symbol $\sim$, while René Descartes used $\propto$.

Both were in due course supplanted by $=$, a shortened and hence more efficient version of Recorde's invention.

It is suggested by some sources that this was mainly through the influence of Leibniz.

## Sources

- 1992: George F. Simmons:
*Calculus Gems*... (previous) ... (next): Chapter $\text {A}.19$: Leibniz ($\text {1646}$ – $\text {1716}$) - 1998: David Nelson:
*The Penguin Dictionary of Mathematics*(2nd ed.) ... (previous) ... (next):**equals sign** - 2008: David Nelson:
*The Penguin Dictionary of Mathematics*(4th ed.) ... (previous) ... (next):**equals sign** - 2008: Ian Stewart:
*Taming the Infinite*... (previous) ... (next): Chapter $4$: Lure of the Unknown: Algebraic symbolism - 2009: Ian Stewart:
*Professor Stewart's Hoard of Mathematical Treasures*:*Who Invented the Equals Sign?*