Seki Kowa
##### Seki Kowa - The Arithmetical Sage

The life of Japanese mathematician Seki Kowa is a mysterious one. Very little is known about this great man with the exception of a few key points. It is known that he was born around the year 1640 into a samurai family, most likely in the town of Fujioka. At a young age he was adopted into a noble family and became known as either Seki Kowa or Seki Takakaza. As a child, Seki educated himself in mathematics and many considered him an infant prodigy on the subject. Before his death on October 24, 1708, Seki is credited for having made many important discoveries and advances in algebra and calculus and for turning the study of mathematics in Asia from an artform into a science.

Seki is known for being the first person to study determinants. The determinant of a matrix is a combination of the entries of the matrix with the property that the determinant is 0 if and only if the matrix is not invertible(AB=BA≠0). Seki studied this in the 1683, which was ten years prior to the discovery by Gottfried Leibniz. Seki’s discoveries are credited with being more general then those of Leibniz.

The general equation of a determinant is:

a1b2c3 - a1b3c2 + a2b3c1 - a2b1c3 + a3b1c2 - a3b2c1 = 0

Seki discovered many other things prior to similar discoveries made by European scientists. Among these include the Newton-Raphson method for solving equations, Bernoulli numbers and being able to solve the cubic equation 30 + 14x - 5x2 - x3 = 0. It is thought that Seki may have made many other discoveries in the field of calculus that he passed on to his pupils, but the secrecy surrounding Japanese schools makes this hard to determine Seki worked as an examiner of accounts for the Lord of Koshu and it was with this close capacity to the people in charge that he was able to create policies making math more accessible to the common person. This greatly increased the status of mathematics and helped fulfill Seki’s goal of turning mathematics into a science. The many pupils that Seki taught furthered the growth of Japanese mathematics.

Weisstein, E.W. Determinate. Retrieved February 24, 2008, from MathWorld Web site: http://mathworld.wolfram.com/Determinant.html

O'Connor, J.J. (1997, February). Takakazu Seki Kowa. Retrieved February 24, 2008, from Takakazu Seki Kowa Web site: http://www-groups.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/Biographies/Seki.html