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Synthetic geometry

Synthetic geometry is a descriptive term that describes a methodology of geometry which makes use of theorems and synthetic observations to create theorems or solve problems, as opposed to analytic geometry which uses algebra, numbers, computations to draw theorems or solve problems.

The geometry of Euclid was indeed synthetic, though not all of the books covered topics of pure geometry. The heyday of synthetic geometry can be considered to have been the nineteenth century; when methods based on coordinates and calculus were ignored by some geometers such as Jakob Steiner, in favour of a synthetic development of projective geometry.

For example, the treatment of the projective plane starting from axioms of incidence is actually a broader theory (with more models) than is found by starting with a vector space of dimension three. The close axiomatic study of Euclidean geometry led to the discovery of non-Euclidean geometry. The question is whether this is success or failure.

If the axiom set is not categorical (so that there is more than one model) one has the geometry/geometries debate to settle. That's not a serious issue for a modern axiomatic mathematician, since the implication of axiom is now starting point for theory rather than self-evident plank in platform based on intuition. And since the Erlangen programme of Klein the geometrical nature of a geometry has been seen as the connection of symmetry and the content of propositions, rather than the style of development.