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Mathematical Treasures - Introduction

Author(s): 
Frank J. Swetz and Victor J. Katz

Index to the Collection (alphabetical by author)

During the first half of the twentieth century, David Eugene Smith (1860-1944) was a moving force in the world of mathematics education. As the chairman of the mathematics education department at Columbia University’s Teachers College, Smith led the way in teaching reforms attuned to the Progressive Education Movement. He firmly believed that the teaching of mathematics should be closely associated with the history of the subject. As an historian of mathematics, he wrote and lectured widely on the subject and also collected historical mathematical materials: texts, documents and artifacts. Smith befriended the wealthy New York book publisher and bibliophile, George Arthur Plimpton (1855-1936). While Plimpton was an avid collector of materials from the liberal arts that comprised “the tools of learning” for western civilization, under Smith’s influence Plimpton greatly enriched his collection with mathematical manuscripts and many early Renaissance texts on arithmetic. When Plimpton died in 1936, he bequeathed his collection to Columbia University. Similarly, beginning in 1931, David Eugene Smith began donating his extensive collection of mathematical memorabilia: historical texts; correspondence; portraits of famous mathematicians; signatures and concrete artifacts to the Columbia University Library.

Today, these two collections exist as rich resources for understanding the development of mathematics and the lives and work of many of the persons responsible for its advance. These archives are available to researchers through the Rare Book and Manuscript Collection at Columbia University. The Mathematical Association of America, in cooperation with the Columbia University Libraries, is pleased to display a selection of items, Mathematical Treasures, from these two separate collections. The editors of Convergence would like to particularly thank Dr. Michael Ryan, Director of Rare Books and Manuscripts, and Jennifer Lee, Librarian for Public Service and Programs, for their assistance in making this display possible.

This article is still "under construction." Page 2 contains the beginning of an index to the collection (alphabetical by author). Each item is posted in this article at the standard web resolution of 72dpi. But if you right-click on the name of the item, found in the first sentence of the item description, you can download the item as a tif file at a resolution of approximately 150-200dpi as well. (Since these files are in the range of 3-5mb, the downloading may take some time.) That version should be suitable for most purposes in a classroom setting. If you want a version in even higher resolution, please contact the editors. (Note that if you just click on the name of the item, you will get the tif file on your screen, again after a long wait, but you may not be able to save it to your computer.)

Frank J. Swetz and Victor J. Katz, "Mathematical Treasures - Introduction," Loci (January 2011)

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Mathematical Treasures