„The first impulse came from the consideration of negatives in geometry; I was accustomed to viewing the distances AB and BA as opposite magnitudes. Arising from this idea was the conclusion that if A, B, and C are points of a straight line, then in all cases AB + BC = AC, this being true whether AB and BC are directed in the same direction or in opposite directions (where C lies between A and B). In the latter case AB and BC were not viewed as merely lengths, but simultaneously their considered since they were oppositely directed, Thus dawned the distinction between the sum of lengths and the sum of distances which were fixed in direction. From this resulted the requirement for establishing this latter concept of sum, not simply for the case where the distances were directed in the same or opposite directions, but also for any other case. This could be done in the most simple manner, since the law that AB + BC = AC remains valid when A, B, and C do not lie on a straight line.
This then was the first step which led to a new branch of mathematics… I did not however realize how fruitful and how rich was the field that I had opened up; rather that result seemed scarcely worthy of note until it was combined with a related idea.“