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Mathematical Treasure: Dutch Surveying Manuscript

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University)

A Dutch manuscript, Gheometria oft de konste van Landt te meten, from 1681 discusses surveying techniques and land measurement. The author is one Sebastianus David Louys; however, nothing further is known about him. On page 176 is a discussion and illustration explaining how to employ two distant sightings to determine the height of an inaccessible structure. This problem is similar to the classical Chinese problem of measuring the height of a “sea island” (ca. 263). Here, the observer is aided by the use of a quadrant.

The image above was obtained through the courtesy of the Dibner Library of Science and Technology, Smithsonian Libraries.

Index to Mathematical Treasures

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University), "Mathematical Treasure: Dutch Surveying Manuscript," Convergence (May 2017)