MathWorld is an online mathematics reference work, sponsored by Wolfram Research, the creators of the Mathematica computer algebra system.


Eric W. Weisstein, the creator of the site, is an engineering student and had a habit of making notes on his learnings. He has collected extensive notes on mathematical readings, and around 1996 he put his notes online and called it "Eric's Treasure Trove of Mathematics", containing hundreds of pages/articles. These covered a wide range of mathematical topics. At the time it was by far the best single collected resource on mathematics on the web, and became very popular. Eric continuously improved the notes and accepting corrections and comments from online readers. Around 1997, he made a contract with CRC Press and it was published in print and CD-ROM titled "CRC Concise Encyclopedia of Mathematics". The free online version became only partially accessible to the public. In 1999 Eric went to work for Wolfram Research, Inc. (WRI), and WRI renamed the Math Treasure Trove to and hosted it on the company's website without access restrictions.

In 2000, CRC Press sued WRI, the president of WRI Stephen Wolfram, and author Eric Weisstein, due to what they considered was a breach of contract: that the MathWorld content was to remain in print only. The site was taken down by a court injunction. The case was later settled out of court, with WRI paying an unspecified amount and other stipulations. The site became available free to the public again afterwards.

This case made a wave of headlines in the online publishing circle. Most people accused CRC Press of corporate greed, and demanded a free online encyclopedia.

Many people depended on having a free mathematics encyclopedic resource available on the internet. Because of the temporary closure of Mathworld, a number of individuals have tried to start a free online math encyclopedia from scratch. Most notable are PlanetMath and this Wikipedia which carries a sizable mathematics reference accompanying its other reference material.

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