Moritz Cantor (August 23, 1829 - April 9, 1920) was a German historian of mathematics.
He was born at Mannheim, Germany. He came from a family that had emigrated to the Netherlands from Portugal, another branch of which had established itself in Russia, where Georg Cantor was born. In his early youth, Moritz Cantor was not strong enough to go to school, and his parents decided to educate him at home. Later, however, he was admitted to an advanced class of the gymnasium in Mannheim. From there he went to the University of Heidelberg in 1848, and soon after to the University of Göttingen, where he studied under Gauss and Weber, and where Stern awakened in him a strong interest in historical research.
After taking his degree of Ph.D. at the University of Heidelberg in 1851, he went to Berlin, where he eagerly followed the lectures of Lejeune-Dirichlet; and upon his return to Heidelberg in 1853, he was appointed privat-docent at the university. In 1863 he was promoted to the position of assistant professor, and in 1877 he became honorary professor.
Cantor was one of the founders of the "Kritische Zeitschrift für Chemie, Physik, und Mathematik." In 1859 he became associated with Schlömilch as editor of the "Zeitschrift für Mathematik und Physik," taking charge of the historical and literary section of this excellent publication. Since 1877, through his efforts, a supplement to the "Zeitschrift" was published under the separate title of "Abhandlungen zur Geschichte der Mathematik.
Cantor's inaugural dissertation, "Ueber ein Weniger Gebräuchliches Coordinaten-System," (1851), gave no indication that the history of exact sciences would soon be enriched by a master work by him. His first important work was "Ueber die Einführung Unserer Gegenwärtigen Ziffern in Europa," which he wrote for the "Zeitschrift für Mathematik und Physik," 1856, vol. i. One of his most important works was "Vorlesungen über Geschichte der Mathematik," in three volumes (1880-1898). It covers the development of math until the year 1758, the era of Lagrange.
Many historians credit him for founding a new discipline in a field that had hitherto lacked the sound, conscientious, and critical methods of other fields of history.