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8: Right Triangle Trigonometry

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    The precursors to what we study today as Trigonometry had their origin in ancient Mesopotamia, Greece and India. These cultures used the concepts of angles and lengths as an aid to understanding the movements of the heavenly bodies in the night sky. Ancient trigonometry typically used angles and triangles that were embedded in circles so that many of the calculations used were based on the lengths of chords within a circle. The relationships between the lengths of the chords and other lines drawn within a circle and the measure of the corresponding central angle represent the foundation of trigonometry - the relationship between angles and distances.

    The earliest values for the sine function were calculated by Indian mathematicians in the 5th century. The cosine and tangent, as well as the cotangent, secant and cosecant were developed by Islamic mathematicians by the 11th century. European navigators used these ideas extensively to help calculate distances and direction during the Middle Ages. Modern European trigonometry as we understand it was then developed throughout the Renaissance (1450-1650) and Enlightenment (1650-1800).

    This page titled 8: Right Triangle Trigonometry is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Richard W. Beveridge.

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