The use of primary sources in the classroom can be a powerful teaching technique in any course. It can provide context to concepts that are being taught and also improve the retention of the material.
The connection between the Wronskian and fundamental solutions is ubiquitous in any ordinary differential equations class, but it is a struggle for students to understand the subtlety of that connection. Placing it in a historical context can help students understand the concepts. In particular, they can see that this connection was not obvious to many established mathematicians of the time, perhaps helping to alleviate concerns they may have about not easily understanding certain mathematical ideas. Additionally, students can see how before the advent of the Internet, results were sometimes submitted without knowledge of similar publications. And finally, they can see the “human” nature of the exchange between Mansion and Peano.
It is our hope that readers find this a valuable resource in their classes.