The British Journal for the History of Science

Research Article

On the Chinese Origin of the Galley Method of Arithmetical Division

Lam Lay-Yong

Before 1600 the most common method of division used in Europe was the galley, batello, or scratch method, and this was still popular up to the end of the eighteenth century. This method is commonly supposed to be of Hindu origin, being based on a method found in India about the fourth century. It will be shown that the Hindu method is identical to the Chinese method of division (ch'u S0007087400000200_inline1) mentioned in very early Chinese texts such as the Chiu Chang Suan Shu S0007087400000200_inline2 (Nine Chapters on the Mathematical Art, c. first century a.d.). The earliest detailed description of this method is found in the Sun Tzŭ Suan Ching S0007087400000200_inline3 (The Mathematical Manual of Master Sun, third century a.d.).