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Mathematical Treasure: Simson on Conic Sections

Frank J. Swetz (Pennsylvania State University)

Robert Simson (1687-1768) was a Scottish mathematician and a renowned geometer. Simson spent most of his mathematical career as a Professor of Mathematics at Glasgow University. His Elements of the Conic Sections was first published as a book in 1749; however, its contents had been part of a much larger work, which first appeared in 1735. The title page of the 1804 edition of Simson’s Elements of the Conic Sections is shown above.

Some construction exercises involving an ellipse are shown above and below on pages 138-139.

The plate of illustrations shown below includes the relevant Fig. 19 of the discussion on page 138.

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

Frank J. Swetz (Pennsylvania State University), "Mathematical Treasure: Simson on Conic Sections," Convergence (August 2015)