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What are imaginary numbers? Where did they come from? Why are they called imaginary? Do they really exist?

While giving an overview of the history of imaginary numbers from their first appearance to their ubiquitous use today, we will focus on the mysterious appearance of strange quantities in the solution of cubic equations by Cardano and Bombelli in the sixteenth century.

Robin Hartshorne is professor of mathematics, emeritus, at the University of California, Berkeley. He was a math enthusiast from an early age, already learning about ruler and compass constructions in the fifth grade, and Gauss's construction of the regular 17-gon in the ninth grade. He has written books on projective geometry, algebraic geometry, and Euclidean and non-Euclidean geometry. He received the Steele Prize of the American Mathematical Society for mathematical exposition. He is an experienced musician and mountaineer, and speaks several languages besides English. For two years, he has been on the staff of Mathpath, a summer camp for middle school math whizzes.

How to get to Santa Clara University:

101From US Highway 101, take the De La Cruz Boulevard/Santa Clara exit and follow the signs to El Camino and the main campus entrance. 280From I-280, take I-880 north toward Oakland to the Alameda exit. Turn left onto The Alameda (which becomes El Camino Real) to the main campus entrance. 880From I-880, take the Alameda exit, travel north (The Alameda becomes El Camino Real) to the main campus entrance.

There is free parking in a lot near the intersection of Franklin and Alviso Streets (click here for a map).

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