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Mathematical Treasure: Leybourn's Survey of Applied Mathematics

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

William Leybourn (1627-1716) began his career as a London printer but soon became interested in mathematics. He eventually became one of London’s most respected and influential mathematicians. He authored many books on mathematics, of which his most comprehensive work was Cursus Mathematicus, published in 1690. It provides the most complete survey of early eighteenth century applied mathematics available.

Title page of Cursus Mathematicus by William Leybourn, 1690

The author’s portrait serves as the frontispiece.

Image of William Leybourn from Cursus Mathematicus by William Leybourn, 1690

The practice of dialing as discussed in the Cursus required several site observations. "Dialing" at this time referred to the construction and use of sun dials.

Image demonstrating sun dial observation measurements from Cursus Mathematicus by William Leybourn, 1690

The images above were obtained through the courtesy of the Erwin Tomash Library on the History of Computing, Charles Babbage Institute, University of Minnesota.

Erwin Tomash (1921-2012) was a pioneering computer scientist, helping launch the U.S. computer industry from the 1940s onward. During the 1970s he became interested in the history of computer science, and founded the Charles Babbage Society, and its research arm, the Charles Babbage Institute. The Institute, an archive and research center, is housed at the University of Minnesota. Its Erwin Tomash Library on the History of Computing began with Tomash's 2009 donation to the Institute of much of his own collection of rare books from the history of mathematics and computing. (Source: Jeffrey R. Yost, Computer Industry Pioneer: Erwin Tomash (1921-2012), IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, April-June 2013, 4-7.)

Index to Mathematical Treasures

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University), "Mathematical Treasure: Leybourn's Survey of Applied Mathematics," Convergence (August 2018)

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