Geometry arose independently in a number of early cultures as a practical way for dealing with lengths, areas, and volumes. Geometry began to see elements of formal mathematical science emerging in Greek mathematics as early as the 6th century BC. By the 3rd century BC, geometry was put into an axiomatic form by Euclid, whose treatment, The Elements, set a standard for many centuries to follow. Geometry arose independently in India, with texts providing rules for geometric constructions appearing as early as the 3rd century BC. Islamic scientists preserved Greek ideas and expanded on them during the Middle Ages.
Euclid described a line as "breadthless length" which "lies equally with respect to the points on itself". In modern mathematics, given the multitude of geometries, the concept of a line is closely tied to the way the geometry is described. For instance, in analytic geometry, a line in the plane is often defined as the set of points whose coordinates satisfy a given linear equation, but in a more abstract setting, such as incidence geometry, a line may be an independent object, distinct from the set of points which lie on it. In differential geometry, a geodesic is a generalization of the notion of a line to curved spaces.
A surface is a two-dimensional object, such as a sphere or paraboloid. In differential geometry and topology, surfaces are described by two-dimensional 'patches' (or neighborhoods) that are assembled by diffeomorphisms or homeomorphisms, respectively. In algebraic geometry, surfaces are described by polynomial equations.
Congruence and similarity are concepts that describe when two shapes have similar characteristics. In Euclidean geometry, similarity is used to describe objects that have the same shape, while congruence is used to describe objects that are the same in both size and shape. Hilbert, in his work on creating a more rigorous foundation for geometry, treated congruence as an undefined term whose properties are defined by axioms.
Euclidean geometry is geometry in its classical sense. As it models the space of the physical world, it is used in many scientific areas, such as mechanics, astronomy, crystallography, and many technical fields, such as engineering, architecture, geodesy, aerodynamics, and navigation. The mandatory educational curriculum of the majority of nations includes the study of Euclidean concepts such as points, lines, planes, angles, triangles, congruence, similarity, solid figures, circles, and analytic geometry.
Discrete geometry is a subject that has close connections with convex geometry. It is concerned mainly with questions of relative position of simple geometric objects, such as points, lines and circles. Examples include the study of sphere packings, triangulations, the Kneser-Poulsen conjecture, etc. It shares many methods and principles with combinatorics.
Convex geometry dates back to antiquity. Archimedes gave the first known precise definition of convexity. The isoperimetric problem, a recurring concept in convex geometry, was studied by the Greeks as well, including Zenodorus. Archimedes, Plato, Euclid, and later Kepler and Coxeter all studied convex polytopes and their properties. From the 19th century on, mathematicians have studied other areas of convex mathematics, including higher-dimensional polytopes, volume and surface area of convex bodies, Gaussian curvature, algorithms, tilings and lattices.
Another important area of application is number theory. In ancient Greece the Pythagoreans considered the role of numbers in geometry. However, the discovery of incommensurable lengths contradicted their philosophical views. Since the 19th century, geometry has been used for solving problems in number theory, for example through the geometry of numbers or, more recently, scheme theory, which is used in Wiles's proof of Fermat's Last Theorem.