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Predecessors The Babylonians sometime in 2000–1600 BC may have invented the quarter square multiplication algorithm to multiply two numbers using only addition, subtraction and a table of squares. However it could not be used for division without an additional table of reciprocals. Large tables of quarter squares were used to simplify the accurate multiplication of large numbers from 1817 onwards until this was superseded by the use of computers. Michael Stifel published Arithmetica Integra in Nuremberg in 1544, which contains a table of integers and powers of 2 that has been considered an early version of a logarithmic table. In the 16th and early 17th centuries an algorithm called prosthaphaeresis was used to approximate multiplication and division. This used the trigonometric identity…

or similar to convert the multiplications to additions and table lookups. However logarithms are more straightforward and require less work. It can be shown using complex numbers that this is basically the same technique.

By: Muhammad Fitri Bin Azhar (KISAS)

Page 1

Additional Mathematics Project Work: Logarithms (June 2013)

From Napier to Euler

Picture 1: John Napier (1550–1617), the inventor of logarithms

The method of logarithms was publicly propounded by John Napier in 1614, in a book titled Mirifici Logarithmorum Canonis Descriptio (Description of the Wonderful Rule of Logarithms). Joost Bürgi independently invented logarithms but published six years after Napier. Johannes Kepler, who used logarithm tables extensively to compile his Ephemeris and therefore dedicated it to Napier, remarked: ...the accent in calculation led Justus Byrgius [Joost Bürgi] on the way to these very logarithms many years before Napier's system appeared; but ...instead of rearing up his child for the public benefit he deserted it in the birth.

—Johannes Kepler, Rudolphine Tables (1627)

By repeated subtractions Napier calculated (1 − 10 −7)L for L ranging from 1 to 100. The result for L=100 is approximately 0.99999 = 1 − 10 −5. Napier then calculated the products of these numbers with 10 7(1 − 10 −5)L for L from 1 to 50, and did similarly with 0.9998 ≈ (1 − 10−5) 20 and 0.9 ≈ 0.99520 . These computations, which occupied 20 years, allowed him to give, for any number N from 5 to 10 million, the number L that solves the equation…

By: Muhammad Fitri Bin Azhar (KISAS)

Page 2

Additional Mathematics Project Work: Logarithms (June 2013)

Napier first called L an "artificial number", but later introduced the word "logarithm" to mean a number that indicates a ratio: λόγος (logos) meaning proportion, andἀριθμός (arithmos) meaning number. In modern notation, the relation to natural logarithms is:

where the very close approximation corresponds to the observation that

The invention was quickly and widely met with acclaim. The works of Bonaventura Cavalieri (Italy), Edmund Wingate (France), Xue Fengzuo (China), and Johannes Kepler's Chilias logarithmorum (Germany) helped spread the concept further.

By: Muhammad Fitri Bin Azhar (KISAS)

Page 3

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