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Mathematical Treasure: Encyclopedia of Pure Mathematics

Author(s): 
Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University)

The following excerpts are from the Encyclopedia of Pure Mathematics, published in London in 1847. This work collects together in one book all of the mathematical articles from the “Pure Sciences” volumes of the Encyclopaedia Metropolitana, which was published from 1817 to 1845. The authors of the articles included Peter Barlow, George Peacock, George Biddell Airy, and, due to an unfortunate printing error, “Alfred” De Morgan.

The Encyclopedia provides a sense of the mathematical understanding of various concepts at this time. One of the first concepts to be examined in the section on arithmetic is the knowledge of numeration systems. A set of illustrative engravings near the end of the text depicts the symbols employed by various civilizations: Chinese, Maya, Egyptian, etc. A consideration of European computing devices, the abacus and counting table, is also presented.

First page of arithmetic engravings from the Encyclopedia of Pure Mathematics, 1847

Second page of arithmetic engravings from the Encyclopedia of Pure Mathematics, 1847

Third page of arithmetic engravings from the Encyclopedia of Pure Mathematics, 1847

A section on the “calculus of functions” (pages 305-306) deals with algebraic symbolism and its manipulation.

Page 305 on Calculus of Functions from the Encyclopedia of Pure Mathematics, 1847

Page 306 on Calculus of Functions from the Encyclopedia of Pure Mathematics, 1847

This material is obtained through the courtesy of the Peabody Library of Johns Hopkins University. A complete copy of the work can also be viewed in Google Books.

Index to Mathematical Treasures

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University) , "Mathematical Treasure: Encyclopedia of Pure Mathematics," Convergence (June 2018)

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