In geometry and machine learning, a hyperplane is essentially a flat, affine subspace of dimension n−1 within n-dimensional space. For instance, in a three-dimensional space, a hyperplane is a two-dimensional plane. In the context of machine learning, hyperplanes are critical in classification algorithms, particularly in support vector machines (SVMs), where they are used to define the decision boundary between different classes of data. The optimal hyperplane is the one that maximizes the margin between the nearest data points of each class, often leading to better generalization on unseen data.

Historical overview: The concept of a hyperplane has roots in geometry and has been a fundamental element in mathematics for centuries. However, its specific application in machine learning and particularly in support vector machines began gaining prominence in the late 1990s following the introduction of SVMs by Vladimir Vapnik and others in the 1960s.

Key contributors: The mathematical foundation of hyperplanes is tied deeply to the development of vector space theory by mathematicians such as Giuseppe Peano and Hermann Grassmann. In the context of their use in machine learning, Vladimir Vapnik's work on support vector machines has been instrumental in popularizing the use of hyperplanes for classification tasks.