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Mathematical Treasure: Conic Sections & Algebraic Geometry for Beginners

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University)

An Elementary Treatise on Conic Sections and Algebraic Geometry, by George Hale Puckle, was first published in 1854 as a “more user friendly” text than the very popular A Treatise on Conic Sections (1848) of George Salmon (1819-1904). Puckle’s cover advertised: “Especially Designed for the Use of Beginners.” Little is known about the author, other than that he associated himself with St. John’s College, Cambridge, and was the principal of a Windermere College. This book also became popular going through six editions by 1887.


The “Table of Contents” provides the scope and sequence of the material considered.


Pages 8 and 9 provide an introduction to polar coordinates.



Chapter IX, “Central Conic Sections Referred to Their Axes,” begins on page 166. The first four pages of this chapter, primarily a discussion of the ellipse, are given here to illustrate the style and format of the presentation.


This material is obtained through the courtesy of the University of California Libraries. A complete digital copy can be read on the UC Libraries’ Internet Archive.

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University), "Mathematical Treasure: Conic Sections & Algebraic Geometry for Beginners," Convergence (August 2016)