The
Garden of ArchimedesA museum for mathematics |

| Cantor's irrational numbers |
Dedekind's irrational numbers |

| a passage from Heine.
| a passage from Cantor.
| a passage from
Dedekind. | a
passage from Meray. |

In the article titled *Ueber die Ausdehnung
eines Satzes aus der Theorie der trigonometrischen Reihen*,
which means "On the extension of a theorem of the theory of
trigonometric series" appeared in 1872 in the
"Matematische Annalen", Cantor finds himself
considering infinite sets of points in relation to the problem of
the convergence of series. In order to operate rigorously, he
then proposes an arithmetic theory of irrational numbers, which he was to discuss in more detail later.

Irrational numbers are defined using sequences of rational numbers , ,..., , submitted to the
condition that for every
all its terms except at most a finite number differ one from the
other by less than , that is that a natural number exist, such that for any and for
any one
has . This is the condition today know as
"Cauchy's condition" and that Cantor calls
"fundamental".

He begins by affirming that if a sequence satisfies that
condition, then it "has a determined limit ", or rather, in correcting the
ambiguity of this expression, he later affirmed that the number a
is "associated" to the sequence, that is the irrational
numbers are identified with fundamental sequences. Two of those
sequences, a_{n} and b_{n}, are the same irrational number if tends to zero. If, given any rational number,
the members of the sequence - for a large enough n - are all
smaller in absolute value than any given number, then . If they are
all greater than a certain positive rational then . If they are all smaller than a certain negative
rational then .

Fundamental operations are extended to the new system, observing
that if and are two fundamental
sequences, also and are,
and they define and .

If is a fundamental sequence of irrational numbers
then there exists only one irrational number a,
determined by a sequence of rationals such that tends to : fundamental sequences of
irrational numbers does not create the necessity for new types of
numbers. In other terms, irrational numbers constitute a complete
system.

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In 1872, Dedekind puts out the pamphlet *Stetigkeit und
irrationale Zahlen*, that is "Continuity and irrational
numbers", in which he presents a rigorous definition of the
idea of the continuum. He starts from the study of rational
numbers, and he points out three of their fundamental properties:

- order: if and then
- density: if then there are infinite rationals between and
- section: if is a given rational, then all rationals can be divided into two classes and containing each an infinite number of elements, such that in the first are all the numbers smaller than and in the second all the numbers larger than , and can be in either the first or the second class.

If one fixes a segment as a measuring unit, then
to each rational one can associate a point on a straight line,
and the points on the line all respect similar properties of
order, density and section. It is known, however, that the
inverse correspondence is not true, because a line contains
infinite points not corresponding to any rational. If one wants
to create a number system that respects "the quality of
being complete, without gaps, that is, continuous" of the
line, then one must create new numbers, because rational numbers
are not enough to describe arithmetically all the phenomena of
the line.

The "essence of continuity" is recognised by Dedekind
as the inverse of property (3) that is verified by every point of
the line, that is in the fact - known as the
"continuity" or "Dedekind" axiom - that if
one creates a partition into two classes in a straight line, such
that any element of one class is on the left of any element of
the other, then there exists one, and only one, point which
produces such a partition. Abandoning geometric intuition,
Dedekind then transfers this property to the numeric system,
defining as a irrational number a section of rational numbers, that is
a couple of non-empty and disjointed subsets,
whose union is the set of rational numbers, such that for every
element of
and of , results. Sections that are
not produced by any rational number "create" a new
number, an irrational number. Thus to every section now
corresponds, in analogy to the line, one and only one specific
number, rational or irrational.

Starting from the sections, one can then verify that the numbers
thus construed enjoy the usual properties, properly defining the
ordering and the arithmetic operations.

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**Edward Heine**

*Die Elemente der Functionenlehre*

On numbers

1. Numeric series

1. Definition. I call a numeric series a series of numbers , , ..., , ... if for every given number different from zero, sufficiently small, there exists a value such that for every positive natural number is less than .

Observation. The wordnumberwithout any addition in Chapter A always stands for rational number. Zero will here be considered a rational number.

2. Definition. Every numeric series in which the numbers , with a growing index, are smaller than a given amount, I will call an elementary series. [...]

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**Georg Ferdinand Cantor**

*Ueber die Ausdehnung eines Satzes aus der Theorie der
trigonometrischen Reihen*

Rational numbers form the basis for the definition of the next concept of numeric dimension; I will say that they form a dominion A (and in these I include zero). When I speak of numeric dimension in an extended sense, it is the case presented by an infinite sequence of rational numbers

having the property that the difference becomes infinitely small as grows, with any positive natural number , or in other words that for every arbitrary (positive natural) there is a natural such that , when and is an arbitrary natural number. I express the property of sequence (1) by saying that sequence (1) has a definite limit [...].

If there is a second sequence

having a definite limit , one finds that the two sequences (1) and (1') can be related to each other in one of the following three ways, which are mutually exclusive: either (i) becomes infinitely smaller with the growth of , or (ii) from a certain onwards always remains greater than a positive (rational) quantity , or (iii) from a certain onwards remains smaller than a positive (rational) quantity .

If the first condition is verified I posit , if the second is verified , if the third is verified .

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**Richard Dedekind **

*Stetigkeit und irrationale Zahlen*

These last words clearly light up the path by which we can reach a continuous field, enlarging the discontinuous field R of rational numbers. In paragraph I we have seen how every rational number

adetermines a partition of the R system into two classes , such that any number of the first class is smaller than any number of the second class; the number itself is either the highest number of the first class or the lowest of the second. Now, we shall call a section and indicate with the symbol any partition of the R system into two classes , which only enjoys this characteristic property, that any number of the class is smaller than any number of the class .

We can then say that every rational numberadetermines a section or rather two sections, which we will not however consider as essentially distinct. This section also enjoys the property that either there is a largest number among the numbers of the first class, or there is a smallest number among the numbers of the second class. Inversely, if a section enjoys this latter property, then it is produced by this largest or smallest rational number.

But it is easy to prove that there exist infinite sections not produced by any rational number. The simplest example is the following. [...]

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**Charles Meray**

*Nouveau
précis d'analyse infinitésimale*

1. We will call

varianta variable number (natural or fractional, positive or negative), whose value depends on the natural numbers m, n, ... that assume all possible combination of values, and which we will call its indices. [...]

2. If there exists a number such that one can choose m, n, ... large enough that the difference is, in absolute value, smaller than any desired quantity, for some values of the indices and for all larger values, then we say that the variant tends or converges towards the limit .

When , variant is called an infinitely small quantity; such is for example the difference between a variant and its limit.[...]

(here follows Meray's construction, in which variants play a similar role than Cantor's sequences)

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