Not since the Piltdown-Sokal Theorem was discovered to have first been proved in 1907 by a provincial Russian electrical engineer, and not in 1979 by Piltdown and Sokal as originally had been thought, has the date of a first proof been so misjudged.
There is only one case of misattribution in the history of mathematics that is of comparable magnitude. The famous triangular array of numbers discovered by Pascal in the 17th century was anticipated five centuries before him by the Chinese mathematician Chia Hsien.
Even this example, however, is trumped by the 700 year differential between Udo’s and Mandelbrot’s discovery.
Professor of mathematics at Temple University, John Allen Paulos is the author of several best-selling books, including Innumeracy and A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper. His Who’s Counting? column on ABCNEWS.com appears on the first day of every month.