Who Invented Trigonometry?

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Trigonometry was invented by the Ancient Egyptians and Babylonians, who all worked with triangles, and it developed over time through the Greeks and the Indians. Hear a brief history of trigonometry with instructions from a college-level math teacher in this free video on geometry.

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Video Transcript

Who invented trigonometry? Hi, my name is Jimmy Chang, I've been teaching college math for 9 years and there's actually a multi part answer to that question because trigonometry didn't happen overnight in fact it evolved over centuries. Now in the next couple of minutes we're going to give you a brief history as to how it began and where it ended up. It all started with the ancient Egyptians and Babylonians. Now they did a lot of work with triangles and similar triangles and they took a lot of records as to the rising and setting of various celestial objects but they didn't really have a good grasp of angle measure. The took a lot of records and they figured there was something there, but they didn't quite know how to approach the whole angle and trigonometric functions idea. Now over time, the Greeks were always forerunners of mathematics, they came up with the sign function. The Indian mathematicians came with the cosign functions and the inverse sign functions or sign inverse. Sometime later, the Muslim mathematicians gave us some more trigonometric functions. Secants, cosecants and the relationship that tangent is equal to sine over cosine. They also gave us the law of signs which is something that's been used today to help find the different parts of non-right triangles but also by the 10th century, every Muslim mathematician was using all six trigonometric functions. They were among the first. And then one of Copernicus' students developed right triangle trigonometry. Trigonometry up until that point was expressed and defined primarily in circle form but the student of Copernicus was able to define all six trigonometric functions using right triangles and as a result today, most mathematicians and instructors use both approaches to figure out values of the trig functions. So I'm Jimmy Chang and this has been a brief history of the invention of trigonometry.


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