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Mathematical Treasure: History of Mathematics for a School

Frank J. Swetz (Pennsylvania State University)

In 1768 Joseph Fenn (d. 1783), Professor of Philosophy at the University of Nantes, devised the mathematics curriculum for a new school, “A Drawing School,” in Dublin, Ireland. A published version of the plan was presented before the Dublin Society, the sponsor of the school. While it bore the title, History of Mathematics, only the first thirty pages of the work considered this subject, with the remainder of the treatise devoted to the teaching of mathematics. Still, it is quite interesting that, at this time, a work on mathematics should be prefaced by a history of the subject. The title page of Professor Fenn’s plan is shown above.

An example of Fenn’s discussion of the history of mathematics, which, in its content, appears to be more rhetorical than factual.

The images above are provided courtesy of Archives and Special Collections, Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

Frank J. Swetz (Pennsylvania State University), "Mathematical Treasure: History of Mathematics for a School," Convergence (August 2015)