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Mathematical Treasure: Martinez's Arithmetic and Abacus

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

Joannes Blasius Martinus (Martinez) Silicaeus (c. 1477-1557) was a Spanish mathematician, probably a high ranking priest in the Catholic Church, and a prolific author. His Liber arithmetice practice (1513) is broken up into four parts: the first deals with the basic arithmetic operations; the second, with the operation of an abacus; the third, fractions; and the last section, the “Rule of Three.”

Title page of Liber arithmetice practice by Joannes Blasius Martinus Silcaeus, 1513

Sample pages of abacus instruction:

First sample page of abacus instruction from Liber arithmetice practice by Joannes Blasius Martinus Silcaeus, 1513

Second sample page of abacus instruction from Liber arithmetice practice by Joannes Blasius Martinus Silcaeus, 1513

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: Martinez's Arithmetic and Abacus," Convergence (August 2018)

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