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Johns Hopkins Studies in the History of Mathematics

Ronald Calinger, Series Editor

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press

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Johns Hopkins Studies in the History of Mathematics

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Chasing Shadows

Mathematics, Astronomy, and the Early History of Eclipse Reckoning

Clemency Montelle

Lunar and solar eclipses have always fascinated human beings. Digging deep into history, Clemency Montelle examines the ways in which theoretical understanding of eclipses originated and how ancient and medieval cultures shared, developed, and preserved their knowledge of these awe-inspiring events. Eclipses were the celestial phenomena most challenging to understand in the ancient world. Montelle draws on original research—much of it derived from reading primary source material written in Akkadian and Sanskrit, as well as ancient Greek, Latin, and Arabic—to explore how observers in Babylon, the Islamic Near East, Greece, and India developed new astronomical and mathematical techniques to predict and describe the features of eclipses. She identifies the profound scientific discoveries of these four cultures and discusses how the societies exchanged information about eclipses. In constructing this history, Montelle establishes a clear pattern of the transmission of scientific ideas from one culture to another in the ancient and medieval world. Chasing Shadows is an invitingly written and highly informative exploration of the early history of astronomy.

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Equations from God

Pure Mathematics and Victorian Faith

Daniel J. Cohen

Throughout history, application rather than abstraction has been the prominent driving force in mathematics. From the compass and sextant to partial differential equations, mathematical advances were spurred by the desire for better navigation tools, weaponry, and construction methods. But the religious upheaval in Victorian England and the fledgling United States opened the way for the rediscovery of pure mathematics, a tradition rooted in Ancient Greece. In Equations from God, Daniel J. Cohen captures the origins of the rebirth of abstract mathematics in the intellectual quest to rise above common existence and touch the mind of the deity. Using an array of published and private sources, Cohen shows how philosophers and mathematicians seized upon the beautiful simplicity inherent in mathematical laws to reconnect with the divine and traces the route by which the divinely inspired mathematics of the Victorian era begot later secular philosophies.

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Mathematical Works Printed in the Americas, 1554–1700

Bruce Stanley Burdick

This magisterial annotated bibliography of the earliest mathematical works to be printed in the New World challenges long-held assumptions about the earliest examples of American mathematical endeavor. Bruce Stanley Burdick brings together mathematical writings from Mexico, Lima, and the English colonies of Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and New York. The book provides important information such as author, printer, place of publication, and location of original copies of each of the works discussed. Burdick’s exhaustive research has unearthed numerous examples of books not previously cataloged as mathematical. While it was thought that no mathematical writings in English were printed in the Americas before 1703, Burdick gives scholars one of their first chances to discover Jacob Taylor’s 1697 Tenebrae, a treatise on solving triangles and other figures using basic trigonometry. He also goes beyond the English language to discuss works in Spanish and Latin, such as Alonso de la Vera Cruz's 1554 logic text, the Recognitio Summularum; a book on astrology by Enrico Martínez; books on the nature of comets by Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora and Eusebio Francisco Kino; and a 1676 almanac by Feliciana Ruiz, the first woman to produce a mathematical work in the Americas. Those fascinated by mathematics, its history, and its culture will note with interest that many of these works, including all of the earliest ones, are from Mexico, not from what is now the United States. As such, the book will challenge us to rethink the history of mathematics on the American continents.

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The World of Maria Gaetana Agnesi, Mathematician of God

Massimo Mazzotti

She is best known for her curve, the witch of Agnesi, which appears in almost all high school and undergraduate math books. She was a child prodigy who frequented the salon circuit, discussing mathematics, philosophy, history, and music in multiple languages. She wrote one of the first vernacular textbooks on calculus and was appointed chair of mathematics at the university in Bologna. In later years, however, she became a prominent figure within the Catholic Enlightenment, gave up the academic world, and devoted herself to the poor, the sick, the hungry, and the homeless. Indeed, the life of Maria Agnesi reveals a complex and enigmatic figure—one of the most fascinating characters in the history of mathematics. Using newly discovered archival documents, Massimo Mazzotti reconstructs the wide spectrum of Agnesi's social experience and examines her relationships to various traditions—religious, political, social, and mathematical. This meticulous study shows how she and her fellow Enlightenment Catholics modified tradition in an effort to reconcile aspects of modern philosophy and science with traditional morality and theology. Mazzotti's original and provocative investigation is also the first targeted study of the Catholic Enlightenment and its influence on modern science. He argues that Agnesi's life is the perfect lens through which we can gain a greater understanding of mid-eighteenth-century cultural trends in continental Europe.

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