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Mathematical Treasure: Charles Hutton's Course of Mathematics

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University)

This is the title page of an American edition of Charles Hutton’s A Course of Mathematics for the Use of Academies as well as Private Tuition. Hutton (1737-1823) was a self taught mathematician and mathematics instructor at the British Royal Military Academy, in Woolwich, England. He wrote this text for his students and included all the mathematics he believed a military cadet of the time should know.

When the United States Military Academy formally opened at West Point in 1801, the study of this book was included for its students. Robert Adrain (1775–1843), a leading American mathematician, revised the book for an American audience in 1812. The copy shown below is the third American edition of 1818.

Eventually, the British version experienced thirteen reprints and its American counterpart went through four reprints. The text was used at West Point until 1823.

The “Table of Contents” for volume one shows the scope of mathematical coverage for the first section of studies.

These pages discuss and give problems on approximating the area under a curve using numerical methods.

The images above are presented courtesy of the State Library of Pennsylvania, in Harrisburg, PA. Dr. Iren Snavely, Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts, was particularly helpful in securing these images.

To learn more about the use of Charles Hutton's texts at the United States Military Academy at West Point, see:

To learn more about Robert Adrain, see:

To learn more about other early American textbooks, see:

Index to Mathematical Treasures

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University), "Mathematical Treasure: Charles Hutton's Course of Mathematics," Convergence (June 2015)