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Textbooks of Lacroix: A Text by Lacroix and Bézout in America

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


This is the title page of An Elementary Treatise on Plane and Spherical Trigonometry, and on the Application of Algebra to Geometry; from the Mathematics of Lacroix and Bèzout, second edition, 1826. The first edition was published in 1820. It is believed to have been translated from French to English by John Farrar (1779-1853) [1], who was Hollis Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy at Harvard College in Cambridge, Massachusetts, from 1807 to 1836 [2].

Étienne  Bézout (1730–1783) was a noted French algebraist. He wrote a six-volume comprehensive work titled Cours complet de mathématiques à l'usage de la marine et de l'artillerie (1770–1782), which was considered accessible to students who wished to enter the École Polytechnique. Bézout’s texts were translated into English and used in both England and America, including at Harvard [3]. As seen in the preceding webpages, Lacroix wrote a similar “course” of elementary texts, considered to be accessible to students of mathematics at a slightly higher level than those of Bézout [4]. In the "Advertisement" below, the translator explained exactly which parts of Lacroix's and Bézout's series of texts he used to form the volume featured on this page.


The “Advertisement,” above, serves as a preface and indicates specifically the reliance of the American textbook writer on his French sources.


The “Table of Contents,” above, indicates the topics of study at this time.

The images above are presented courtesy of the State Library of Pennsylvania, in Harrisburg, PA. Dr. Iren Snavely, Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts, was particularly helpful in securing these images.

References

[1] WorldCat entries for An Elementary Treatise on Plane and Spherical Trigonometry; and the Application of Algebra to Geometry: from the Mathematics of Lacroix and Bèzout, 1820 and 1826

[2] “John Farrar (1779-1853),” Harvard University Library, http://oasis.lib.harvard.edu/oasis/deliver/~hua24011

[3] J. J. O’Connor and E. F. Robertson, “Étienne Bézout (1730-1783),” MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive

[4] J. J. O’Connor and E. F. Robertson, “Sylvestre François Lacroix (1765-1843),” MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University), "Textbooks of Lacroix: A Text by Lacroix and Bézout in America," Convergence (June 2015)

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