During the whole of 1874, Camille Jordan and Leopold Kronecker quar- relled vigorously over the organisation of the theory of bilinear forms. That theory promised a "general" and "homogeneous" treatment of numerous questions arising in various 19th-century theoretical contexts, and it hinged on two theorems, stated independently by Jordan and Weierstrass, that would today be considered equivalent. It was, however, the perceived difference between those two theorems that sparked the 1874 controversy. Focusing on this quarrel allows us to explore the algebraic identity of the polynomial practices of the manipulations of forms in use before the advent of structural approaches to linear algebra. The latter approaches identified these practices with methods for the classification of similar matrices. We show that the prac- tices -- Jordan's canonical reduction and Kronecker's invariant computation -- reflect identities inseparable from the social context of the time. Moreover, these practices reveal not only tacit knowledge, local ways of thinking, but also -- in light of a long history tracing back to the work of Lagrange, Laplace, Cau- chy, and Hermite -- two internal philosophies regarding the significance of generality which are inseparable from two disciplinary ideals opposing algebra and arithmetic. By interrogating the cultural identities of such practices, this study aims at a deeper understanding of the history of linear algebra without focusing on issues related to the origins of theories or structures.
- Pub Date:
- April 2007
- Mathematics - History and Overview
- 65 pages. Il s'agit d'une version pr\'e publication ant\'erieure \`a la version publi\'ee (r\'ef\'erence jointe). arXiv admin note: substantial text overlap with arXiv:0704.2931