How to Read Historical Mathematics

Princeton University Press
Free sample

Writings by early mathematicians feature language and notations that are quite different from what we're familiar with today. Sourcebooks on the history of mathematics provide some guidance, but what has been lacking is a guide tailored to the needs of readers approaching these writings for the first time. How to Read Historical Mathematics fills this gap by introducing readers to the analytical questions historians ask when deciphering historical texts.

Sampling actual writings from the history of mathematics, Benjamin Wardhaugh reveals the questions that will unlock the meaning and significance of a given text--Who wrote it, why, and for whom? What was its author's intended meaning? How did it reach its present form? Is it original or a translation? Why is it important today? Wardhaugh teaches readers to think about what the original text might have looked like, to consider where and when it was written, and to formulate questions of their own. Readers pick up new skills with each chapter, and gain the confidence and analytical sophistication needed to tackle virtually any text in the history of mathematics.

  • Introduces readers to the methods of textual analysis used by historians
  • Uses actual source material as examples
  • Features boxed summaries, discussion questions, and suggestions for further reading
  • Supplements all major sourcebooks in mathematics history
  • Designed for easy reference
  • Ideal for students and teachers
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About the author

Benjamin Wardhaugh is a postdoctoral research fellow at All Souls College, University of Oxford. He is the author of Music, Experiment, and Mathematics in England, 1653-1705.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Mar 1, 2010
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Pages
136
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ISBN
9781400835331
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Language
English
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Genres
Mathematics / History & Philosophy
Mathematics / Reference
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Benjamin Wardhaugh
Despite what we may sometimes imagine, popular mathematics writing didn't begin with Martin Gardner. In fact, it has a rich tradition stretching back hundreds of years. This entertaining and enlightening anthology--the first of its kind--gathers nearly one hundred fascinating selections from the past 500 years of popular math writing, bringing to life a little-known side of math history. Ranging from the late fifteenth to the late twentieth century, and drawing from books, newspapers, magazines, and websites, A Wealth of Numbers includes recreational, classroom, and work mathematics; mathematical histories and biographies; accounts of higher mathematics; explanations of mathematical instruments; discussions of how math should be taught and learned; reflections on the place of math in the world; and math in fiction and humor.

Featuring many tricks, games, problems, and puzzles, as well as much history and trivia, the selections include a sixteenth-century guide to making a horizontal sundial; "Newton for the Ladies" (1739); Leonhard Euler on the idea of velocity (1760); "Mathematical Toys" (1785); a poetic version of the rule of three (1792); "Lotteries and Mountebanks" (1801); Lewis Carroll on the game of logic (1887); "Maps and Mazes" (1892); "Einstein's Real Achievement" (1921); "Riddles in Mathematics" (1945); "New Math for Parents" (1966); and "PC Astronomy" (1997). Organized by thematic chapters, each selection is placed in context by a brief introduction.

A unique window into the hidden history of popular mathematics, A Wealth of Numbers will provide many hours of fun and learning to anyone who loves popular mathematics and science.

Some images inside the book are unavailable due to digital copyright restrictions.

Eleanor Robson
This Handbook explores the history of mathematics under a series of themes which raise new questions about what mathematics has been and what it has meant to practise it. It addresses questions of who creates mathematics, who uses it, and how. A broader understanding of mathematical practitioners naturally leads to a new appreciation of what counts as a historical source. Material and oral evidence is drawn upon as well as an unusual array of textual sources. Further, the ways in which people have chosen to express themselves are as historically meaningful as the contents of the mathematics they have produced. Mathematics is not a fixed and unchanging entity. New questions, contexts, and applications all influence what counts as productive ways of thinking. Because the history of mathematics should interact constructively with other ways of studying the past, the contributors to this book come from a diverse range of intellectual backgrounds in anthropology, archaeology, art history, philosophy, and literature, as well as history of mathematics more traditionally understood. The thirty-six self-contained, multifaceted chapters, each written by a specialist, are arranged under three main headings: 'Geographies and Cultures', 'Peoples and Practices', and 'Interactions and Interpretations'. Together they deal with the mathematics of 5000 years, but without privileging the past three centuries, and an impressive range of periods and places with many points of cross-reference between chapters. The key mathematical cultures of North America, Europe, the Middle East, India, and China are all represented here as well as areas which are not often treated in mainstream history of mathematics, such as Russia, the Balkans, Vietnam, and South America. A vital reference for graduates and researchers in mathematics, historians of science, and general historians.
Jordan Ellenberg
The Freakonomics of math—a math-world superstar unveils the hidden beauty and logic of the world and puts its power in our hands

The math we learn in school can seem like a dull set of rules, laid down by the ancients and not to be questioned. In How Not to Be Wrong, Jordan Ellenberg shows us how terribly limiting this view is: Math isn’t confined to abstract incidents that never occur in real life, but rather touches everything we do—the whole world is shot through with it.

Math allows us to see the hidden structures underneath the messy and chaotic surface of our world. It’s a science of not being wrong, hammered out by centuries of hard work and argument. Armed with the tools of mathematics, we can see through to the true meaning of information we take for granted: How early should you get to the airport? What does “public opinion” really represent? Why do tall parents have shorter children? Who really won Florida in 2000? And how likely are you, really, to develop cancer?

How Not to Be Wrong presents the surprising revelations behind all of these questions and many more, using the mathematician’s method of analyzing life and exposing the hard-won insights of the academic community to the layman—minus the jargon. Ellenberg chases mathematical threads through a vast range of time and space, from the everyday to the cosmic, encountering, among other things, baseball, Reaganomics, daring lottery schemes, Voltaire, the replicability crisis in psychology, Italian Renaissance painting, artificial languages, the development of non-Euclidean geometry, the coming obesity apocalypse, Antonin Scalia’s views on crime and punishment, the psychology of slime molds, what Facebook can and can’t figure out about you, and the existence of God.

Ellenberg pulls from history as well as from the latest theoretical developments to provide those not trained in math with the knowledge they need. Math, as Ellenberg says, is “an atomic-powered prosthesis that you attach to your common sense, vastly multiplying its reach and strength.” With the tools of mathematics in hand, you can understand the world in a deeper, more meaningful way. How Not to Be Wrong will show you how.
Benjamin Wardhaugh
This book contains all the letters that are known to survive from the correspondence of Charles Hutton (1737-1823). Hutton was one of the most prominent British mathematicians of his generation; he played roles at the Royal Society, the Royal Military Academy, the Board of Longitude, the 'philomath' network and elsewhere. He worked on the explosive force of gunpowder and the mean density of the earth, wining the Royal Society's Copley medal in 1778; he was also at the focus of a celebrated row at the Royal Society in 1784 over the place of mathematics there. He is of particular historical interest because of the variety of roles he played in British mathematics, the dexterity with which he navigated, exploited and shaped personal and professional networks in mathematics and science, and the length and visibility of his career. Hutton corresponded nationally and internationally, and his correspondence illustrates the overlapping, the intersection and interaction of the different networks in which Hutton moved. It therefore provides new information about how Georgian mathematics was structured socially, and how mathematical careers worked in that period. It provides a rare and valuable view of a mathematical culture that would substantially cease to exist when British mathematics embraced continental methods from the early ninetheenth century onwards. Over 130 letters survive, from 1770 to 1822, but they are widely scattered (in nearly thirty different archives) and have not been catalogued or edited before. This edition situates the correspondence with an introduction and explanatory notes.
Benjamin Wardhaugh
This book contains all the letters that are known to survive from the correspondence of Charles Hutton (1737-1823). Hutton was one of the most prominent British mathematicians of his generation; he played roles at the Royal Society, the Royal Military Academy, the Board of Longitude, the 'philomath' network and elsewhere. He worked on the explosive force of gunpowder and the mean density of the earth, wining the Royal Society's Copley medal in 1778; he was also at the focus of a celebrated row at the Royal Society in 1784 over the place of mathematics there. He is of particular historical interest because of the variety of roles he played in British mathematics, the dexterity with which he navigated, exploited and shaped personal and professional networks in mathematics and science, and the length and visibility of his career. Hutton corresponded nationally and internationally, and his correspondence illustrates the overlapping, the intersection and interaction of the different networks in which Hutton moved. It therefore provides new information about how Georgian mathematics was structured socially, and how mathematical careers worked in that period. It provides a rare and valuable view of a mathematical culture that would substantially cease to exist when British mathematics embraced continental methods from the early ninetheenth century onwards. Over 130 letters survive, from 1770 to 1822, but they are widely scattered (in nearly thirty different archives) and have not been catalogued or edited before. This edition situates the correspondence with an introduction and explanatory notes.
Benjamin Wardhaugh
This is the second volume in a two-part set on the writings of Thomas Salmon. Salmon (1647-1706) is remembered today for the fury with which Matthew Locke greeted his first foray into musical writing, the Essay to the Advancement of Musick (1672), and the near-farcical level to which the subsequent pamphlet dispute quickly descended. Salmon proposed a radical reform of musical notation, involving a new set of clefs which he claimed, and Locke denied, would make learning and performing music much easier (these writings are the subject of Volume I). Later in his life Salmon devoted his attention to an exploration of the possible reform of musical pitch. He made or renewed contact with instrument-makers and performers in London, with the mathematician John Wallis, with Isaac Newton and with the Royal Society of London through its Secretary Hans Sloane. A series of manuscript treatises and a published Proposal to Perform Musick, in Perfect and Mathematical Proportions (1688) paved the way for an appearance by Salmon at the Royal Society in 1705, when he provided a demonstration performance by professional musicians using instruments specially modified to his designs. This created an explicit overlap between the spaces of musical performance and of experimental performance, as well as raising questions about the meaning and the source of musical knowledge similar to those raised in his work on notation. Benjamin Wardhaugh presents the first published scholarly edition of Salmon's writings on pitch, previously only available mostly in manuscript.
Benjamin Wardhaugh
This is the second volume in a two-part set on the writings of Thomas Salmon. Salmon (1647-1706) is remembered today for the fury with which Matthew Locke greeted his first foray into musical writing, the Essay to the Advancement of Musick (1672), and the near-farcical level to which the subsequent pamphlet dispute quickly descended. Salmon proposed a radical reform of musical notation, involving a new set of clefs which he claimed, and Locke denied, would make learning and performing music much easier (these writings are the subject of Volume I). Later in his life Salmon devoted his attention to an exploration of the possible reform of musical pitch. He made or renewed contact with instrument-makers and performers in London, with the mathematician John Wallis, with Isaac Newton and with the Royal Society of London through its Secretary Hans Sloane. A series of manuscript treatises and a published Proposal to Perform Musick, in Perfect and Mathematical Proportions (1688) paved the way for an appearance by Salmon at the Royal Society in 1705, when he provided a demonstration performance by professional musicians using instruments specially modified to his designs. This created an explicit overlap between the spaces of musical performance and of experimental performance, as well as raising questions about the meaning and the source of musical knowledge similar to those raised in his work on notation. Benjamin Wardhaugh presents the first published scholarly edition of Salmon's writings on pitch, previously only available mostly in manuscript.
Benjamin Wardhaugh
Despite what we may sometimes imagine, popular mathematics writing didn't begin with Martin Gardner. In fact, it has a rich tradition stretching back hundreds of years. This entertaining and enlightening anthology--the first of its kind--gathers nearly one hundred fascinating selections from the past 500 years of popular math writing, bringing to life a little-known side of math history. Ranging from the late fifteenth to the late twentieth century, and drawing from books, newspapers, magazines, and websites, A Wealth of Numbers includes recreational, classroom, and work mathematics; mathematical histories and biographies; accounts of higher mathematics; explanations of mathematical instruments; discussions of how math should be taught and learned; reflections on the place of math in the world; and math in fiction and humor.

Featuring many tricks, games, problems, and puzzles, as well as much history and trivia, the selections include a sixteenth-century guide to making a horizontal sundial; "Newton for the Ladies" (1739); Leonhard Euler on the idea of velocity (1760); "Mathematical Toys" (1785); a poetic version of the rule of three (1792); "Lotteries and Mountebanks" (1801); Lewis Carroll on the game of logic (1887); "Maps and Mazes" (1892); "Einstein's Real Achievement" (1921); "Riddles in Mathematics" (1945); "New Math for Parents" (1966); and "PC Astronomy" (1997). Organized by thematic chapters, each selection is placed in context by a brief introduction.

A unique window into the hidden history of popular mathematics, A Wealth of Numbers will provide many hours of fun and learning to anyone who loves popular mathematics and science.

Some images inside the book are unavailable due to digital copyright restrictions.

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