this is a VERY big question. as has been said, math was not really invented, it has developed since ancient civilisations as counting is inherent to human nature, much has continued from there. alot stems from ancient egyptian and babylonian/mesopotamian folk where we see ideas of advanced counting, for example, fractions (egypt), land segregation in mesopotamia (fractional areas/percentages). base systems other than decimal (e.g. sexagesimal, base 60) were used frequently, and indeed today for example minutes in hours etc. The greeks developed much of the basis for what we use today, including much work on geometry, number theory and a more rigorous treatment of mathematical proof (e.g. euclid's elements is a very important book). As has been said, the persian mathematician X (cant remember his name) is treated as one of the first. around that time, many problems were thought of involving words/sentences, but the algebra as we know it today was not formalised til hundreds of years after. Descartes, Fermat and Pascal are important names to look at. Best Mathematician?! well thats widely debated. Euler is often thought as one of them as he is certainly the most prolific, having written the most. still, the likes of gauss, archimedes, ramanujan, galois.......newton & leibniz ('creators' of calculus) etc are all of difficult comparison. the article below is a great source for history of maths. the main periods are: ancient (egypt/mesopotamia), greek, indian, renaissance (very important), modern. The modern era has focused on developing rigor in mathematics, and there are now thousands and thousands of different branches and literature is growing exponentially! also, modern development has led to many cross-disciplines, e.g. with computer science, physics......... hope that gives you a good start!