Integral of Power/Historical Note

From ProofWiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search


The conventional proof of Integral of Power of course holds for all real $n \ne -1$, not just where $n$ is a strictly positive rational.

However, the real point of this page is Fermat's proof, which demonstrates how integration was achieved before the full machinery of calculus had been thoroughly constructed.

Bonaventura Francesco Cavalieri had previously made progress with this problem, proving it for integral $1 \le n \le 9$ but the algebra for the proof of each power was more difficult than the previous one, and he found $10$ too much hard work. The clear beauty of Fermat's approach was that it works for all $n$, rational as well as integral.