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1.t1~ li.H.bA 1 NIAl.t1blVlAllLlA1~ ~ THE GREAT SCIENTISTS

Each volume F'cap 8vo, 3s. 6d. net

School Edition, 2S. 6d.

A series of little volumes, each covering in a brief and readable manner the history of a paIticulal science by

recounting the lives and achievements of its greatest

exponents from the earliest times to our own day.

THE GREAT PHYSICISTS. By Ivor B. Hart, O.B.E., Ph.D., B.Sc., Author of 1'daluws etf Science, etc. 'lv"ith 25

Diagrams.

THE GREAT ENGINEERS. By Ivor B. Hart. O.B.E .• Ph.D.,

B.Sc. With 33 Diagrams.

THE GREAT CHEMISTS. By E. J. Holmyard, M.A., M.Sc., D.Litt., Head of the Science Department, Clifton College. Third Edition. With a Frontispiece.

THE GREAT MATHEMATICIANS. By H. W. Turnbull, M.A., F.R.S., Regius Professor of Mathematics in the University of St. Andrews. With 19 Diagrams.

THE GREAT BIOLOGISTS. By Sir J. Arthur Thomson, M.A .• LL.D., Emeritus Professor of Natural History in the University of Aberdeen.

THE GREAT MA THE~IATICIANS

BY

II. w. TURNBULL, F.R.S.

REGlUS PROFESSOR OF MATHEMATICS IN THE UNIVERSlTY (}F ST. ANDREWS

WITH 19 DIAGRAMS

SECOND EDITION, REVISED

METHUEN & CO. L TDi

36 ESSEX STREET w.e.

LONDON

**First Published . . November I929
**

~ ~7 T"' 7" " Tl ..1 ~~ -

aecoru» .L:.u~~j,e.v IT, -:n.L'V ~""'IN =::TJJ

DOThl'T'1;'T> Ihl r.RFA.T BRTTATl'J

PREFACE

side the ranks of the experts there is little inquiry into its nature and purpose as a deliberate human

. . . . ..

The story is told of several great mathematicians who are representatives of their day in this venerable science.

. . . .

, ,

to new aspects of the truth. Occasionally it has been necessary to draw a figure or quote a formula-and

In sue cases e rea er w 0 IS 1 es em may SIp, and gather up the thread. undismayed a _little furt~er

comment, find something to admire in these elegant tools of the craft.

ha ve accordingly It is

is incomplete: added for

,

tutor, the late Mr. W. W. Rouse Ball, who first woke m interest in the sub iect. M sincere thanks are

also due to several former and present colleagues in St. Andrews who have made a considerable and illumin-

gestions and criticisms.

In preparing ~he Sec?nd Edition I have had the

removing additions.

CONTENTS

CHAP.

PAGE

•

•

•

v

PREFACE DATE LIST

•

•

•

•

•

•

•

•

Vll

•

SUGGEStIONS FOR FURTHER RRADI~G Vlll

I EARLY BEGINNINGS: THALES PYTHAGORAS AND

THE PYTHAGOREANS 1

II EUDOXUS AND THE ATHENIAN t:;UHOOTJ 16

III ALEXANDRIA: EUCLID, ARCHIMEDES AND ApOL-

LONIUS

30

•

•

•

IV THE SECOND ALEXANDRIAN SCHOOL: PAI1PUS

HE ENAISSANCE:

RISE OF ANALYSIS

APIER AND

EPLER; THE

•

54

GEOMETERS AND THEIR CONTEMPORARIES

•

70

EWTON

IX MACLAURIN AND LAGRANGE •

101

CENTURY •

•

lO~

DATE LIS

6th

.

Thales (640-550), Pythagoras (569-500).

"

"

5th

"

"

naxagoras Hippocrates (?470-- ... ).

"

"

"

., 1

(408-355), Menaechmus (375-325).

Euclid (1 330-275), Archimedes (287-212),

. ? '_9

3rd

"

2nd

"

A.D.

"

1st 2nd 3rd

"

"

(1300), Diophantus

"

"

6th 7th

Arya-Bhata (? 530).

Brahmagupta p 640).

"

"

"

"

" "

Scipio Ferro (1465-1526), Tartaglia (1500-

16th

"

"

, ar an ? opernicu

(1473-1543), Vieta (1540-1603), Napier (1550-1617), Galil~o \1564-1642), Kepler

17th

, .

Des argues (1593-1662), Descartes (1596- 1650), Ferma~ (1601-1665), Pascal (1623-

"

"

,

(1638-1675), Newton (1642-172~), Leib-

18th

mz ,aco ernou i

1705), John Bernoulli (1667-1748).

Euler (1707-1783), Demoivre (1~67-1754),

"

"

,

1746), D'Alembert (1717-1783), Lagrange (1736-1813), Laplace (1749-1827), Cauchy

r;

19th

.

Gauss (1777-1855), Von Standt (1798-

"

"

1 , e ami on (1805-1865), Galois (1811-1832), Riemann (1826-1866), Sylvester (1814-

20th

, ,

(1815-1897), and many others.

Ramanujan (1887-1920), and many living

mathematicians. ~

.,

VU

"

"

**SUGGJi]~TIONS lfOI{ .IfU1{,TliJiiH, j{,JiiAUINU
**

F. CAJORI: A History of Mathematics. Macmillan, 1894.

W. W. ROUSE BALL: A Short Account of the History of Mathe-

• ,mt.· _] T~.l·· , 1\ K : 11 '1 AI"\. ,

' .... II~VU. \.LUUU .c.UllJlVU.j .I.,_li:t.\j , _l i1V _l •

D. EUGENE SMITH: History of hlathematic8. Two volumes.

Ginn 1923.

SIR THOMAS HEATH: A History of Greek Mathematics. Two

volumes. Oxford, 1921. A M arvu.al oj Greek .ill. aihematice,

.......,. , , ~""

UXloru, l~tll.

II • 7. , . 1. t. .7

.L1l1tU/"'lJ i'J/f.,UI (,f:,1 UUU"-i'J IILUY UI:: 'IIttnHU'f,UlJ.

A. N. WHITEHEAD: An Introduction to Mathematics. Home

Universitv Librarv.

S. BRODETSKY: Sir Isaac Newton. 'Second Edition.) Methuen,

1929.

J. W. N. SULLIVAN: The History oj Mathematics in Europe.

Oxtord, 1 uzo, CHAPTER I

EARLY BEGINNIN L

PYTHAGORAS AND THE PYTHAGOREANS

O-DAY with all our accumulated skill in exact

,

lines driven through a mountain meet and make a tunnel. How much more wonderful is it that lines,

point, hundreds of feet aloft! For this, and more, is what is meant b the buildin of a ramid : and all

this was done by the Egyptians in the remote past, far earlier than the time of Abraham.

Egypt are to be found in the writings of Herodotus and other Greek travellers. Of a certain kin Sesostris

Herodotus says :

'This king divided the land among all Egyptians so as to give each one a quadrangle of equal size and to draw from each his revenues b im osin a tax to be levied earl. But ever one

from whose part the river tore anything away, had to go to him to notify what had happened; he then sent overseers who had to measure out by how much the land had become smaller, in order that the owner might pa.y on what was left, in proportion

to the enti~e. tax impo~ed. In this

to me,

en In iae rus a ,0 remar rs :

, At the Egyptian city of Naucratis there was a famous old od whose name was Theuth : the bird which is called th Ibis

was sacred to him, and he was the inventor of many arts, such as arithmetic and calculation and geometry and astronomy and draughts and dice, but his great discovery was the use of letters.'

cause the priestly class in Egypt had the leisure needful for its study; over two thousand years later exact cor-

.. .

IS remar was or coming, roug e

discovery of a pa pyrus, now treasured in the Rhind

collection at the British Museum. This . u

ment, which was written by the priest Ahmes, who lived

e ore B.C., IS ca e irections or nowlng a 1

dark things'; and the work proves to be a collection of

. ...

cerned with the reduction of fractions such as 2j(2n + 1) to a su~ of fract.ions each of wh?se ~umerators is unity.

gyptians of exact

with knots or marks at equal intervals, to measure their plots of la~d. By this simple means they were able to

, ,

of lengths three, four, and five units respectively, could be formed into a right-angled triangle. This useful fact

. ,

tical geometry went far beyond the construction of right an les : for it included besides the an les of a s uare

the angles of other regular figures such as the pentagon, the hexagon and the heptagon.

If we take a pair of compasses, it is very easy to

THALES AND PYTHAGORAS

3

And although it fell short of theoretical precision, the rule was accurate enough to conceal the error, unless

t e gure were to e awn on a gran sea e. t would barely be apparent even on a circle of radius

tical geometry; but whether they knew the theory, th.e underlying reason for tJ1eir. resul~s, is ano~her matt~r.

,

sides of lengths three, four and five units, contained an exact right angle 1 Probably they did, and possibly

, e rea yraml

indicates a considerable familiarity with that of the re ular enta on. A certain obscure assa e in Hero-

dotus can, by the slightest literal emendation, be made to yield e~ccllellt sense. It would im:ply. that the area

with the actual facts. If this is so, the ratios of height, slop: and base can be expressed in ~erms of the ' f?olden

sec ion , or ° J e ra IUS 0 a eire e 0 e SI e 0

the inscribed decagon. In short, there was already a wealth of geometrical and arithmetical results treasured by the priests of Egypt, before the early Greek travellers

4 THE GREAT MATHEMATICI NS

became ac uainted with mathematics. But it was onI

after the keen imaginative eye of the. Greek fell upo?-

ese gyp Ian gures a ey yIa e up err

wonderful secrets and disclosed their inner nature.

e earl tr vellers was THALEs a rich mer-

chant of Miletus, who lived from about 640 to 550 B.C. As a man of affairs .he was highly suc~essful: his duties

saw. To his admiring fellow-countrymen of later generations he was known as one of the Seven Sages of Greece,

nlany egen s an anec 0 es c us ermg roun IS name. It is said that Thales was once in charge of some mules,

. . .

in a river one of the animals slip ed; and the salt

consequently dissolving in the water, its load became instantly lighter. Naturally the sagacious beast de!iber-

,

this trick until Thales hit upon the happy expedient of filling the sack with sponges! This proved an effectual

oreseel~g an unusu~ y

,

press in the district; and having made this 'corner', became master of the market and could dictate his own

terms. But now, according to one account, as he had proved what ?o~ld. J;e do~e, his purpose was a~hieved.

,

I he fruit at a rice reasonable enou h to have

horrified the financier of to-day.

Like many another merchant since his time Thales

. .

,

he spent his leisure in philosophy and mathematics. He seized on what he had learnt in his travels, articu-

larly from his intercoUIs~ with the prie.sts of Egypt;

an e was e rs 0 rmg ou some mg 0 e rue significance of Egyptian scientific lore. He was both a

. i n re t astronomer. Indeed

much of his popular celebrity was due to his successful prediction of a solar eclipse in 585 B.C. Yet it is told of him that in contemplating the stars during an even-

THALES AND PYTHAGORAS

5

attending him exclaimed, ' How canst thou know what

IS doing in t e eavens w en t ou seest not w a IS a thy fee~ ~ ,

,

of an isosceles triangle are equal, or that the angle in a semicircle is a right angle, or that the sides about

equal angles In similar triang es are proportiona . ese and other like propositions have been ascribed to Thales .

.

the endless details of E tian mensuration to eneral

truths; and in like manner his astronomical results replace what was litt~e mo:e than the making of star

o

It has been well remarked that in this geometry of

Thales we also have the true source of algebra. For

the theorem that the diameter bisects a circle IS In ee

a rue equa Ion; an In IS e pe ,

Plutarch says, 'so simply, without any fuss or instru, 0 determine the hei ht of the Great P ramid

by comparing its shadow with that of a vertical stick, we have the notion of equal ratios, or proportion.

. .. .

dering upon it as a pattern of lines, seems to be definitely due to Thales .. He also appears to hav~ been the

rs 0 sugges e Impor ance 0 a geom rIC ,

or curve traced out by a point moving. according to a

. . s kn n as the father of Greek

mathematics, astronomy and philosophy, for he COID-

bined a practical sagacity WIt genuine WIS om. was no mean achievement, in his day, to break through the

. . . .

cults and places. Thales asserted the existence of the abstract and the more general: these, said he, were worthier of deep study than the intuitive or sensible.

6 THE GREAT MATHEMATICIANS

to mankind such practical gifts as the correct number

o ays In e year, an a convemen means 0 n mg by observation the di~tance of ~ sh~p at se~.

proposition' All things are water '. And the fact that ~ll things are ~ot water is trivial compared with the

,

underlying law beneath all that is ephemeral and transient.

gained a wide experience, which stood him in good stead when at length he settled and gathered round him

. . .

about 584 B.C. to 495 B.C. In 529 B.C. he settled at Crotona a town of the Dorian colon in South Ital

and there he began to lecture upon philosophy and mathematics. His lecture-room was thronged with en-

forbade them to attend public meetings, and flocked to hear him. Among the most attentive was Theano, the

. ..

young an he married. She wrote a biography of her husband, but unfortunatel it is lost.

So remarkable was the influence of this great master

t at e more atten rve 0 IS pUpl S gra ua y orme

themselves into a society or brotherhood. They were

soon exercising a great influence far across the Grecian world. This influence was not so much political as religious. Members of the Society shared everything in

. ., ,

common, holding the same philosophical beliefs, engag-

. .. .. .. .

spread, teachings once treasured

Thereby a copy of a treatise by Philo-

aus, we are to , ultimately cam e

. .

matics.

In mathematics

Fm. 1.

e eory

of numbers and in the geometry of areas and solids. As it was the enerous ractice amon members of the

brotherhood to attribute all credit for each new discover_y to Pythagoras hi~self, we ca~not be quite

described, his was the dominating influence.

In thinking of the~e early ph~losophers we mus~ re-

o au n Bun Ig an s arry nlg s

formed their surroundings-not our grey mists and fettered sunshine. As Pythagoras was learning his men-

8 THE GREAT MATHEMATICIANS

see the keen lines cast by the shadows of the pillars

across the pavements. He trod chequered floors with their ~ITays of .alterna~ely coloure~ squares. His mind

across the centre of the first, the fourth, the seventh; the arithmetical ro ression is su gested. Then again

the square is interesting for its size. A fragment of more diverse pattern would demonstrate a larger square

FIG. 2.

, ,

placed unsymmetrically, and so would lead to the great theorem which somehow or other was early reached by

t e rot er 00 an some say y y agoras rmse , that the square on one side of a right-angle~ t!ian~le is mammz siue

The above fi ures (Fig. 2) actually suggest the proof,

but it is quite possible that several different proo s were f~und, one being by the use of similar triangl~s.

,

covered this fine result, in his exultation he sacrificed an ox!

Influenced no doubt by these same orderly patterns,

THALES AND PYTHAGORAS

9

r d numbers as havin characteristic desi ns.

I'here were the triangular numbers, one, three, six, ten,

• · •

• . • · · · • · · ·

nother 8 bol

revered b the brotherhood. Also there were

square numbers, each of which cou

• · · · · · · ·

• •

· · ·

---

· · · · Great importance was attached to this border: it was called a gnomon (yvwp.wv, carpenter's rule). Then it

, , , ,

etc., was a gnomon of a square number. For example, seven is the gnomon of the square of three to make the

~quare of four. Pyt agoras was a so intereste In e

. ..

nore s ,

lise overed the wonderful harmonic progressions in the notes of the musical scale b findin the relation be-

tween the length of a string and the pitch of its vibratmg note. Thrilled by his discovery, he saw in numbers

. .

hich is common

to three cats or three books or three Graces: but numbers were themselves the stuff out o~ which a~l objects

we see or an e e ............ '-&.v

"

IS not judge the doctrine too harshly; it was a great

1. vance on the cruder water hiloso h of Thales.

So, in geometry, one came to be identified with the

ooint ; two WIt e me, t ree WI e sur ace, an

lour with the solid. This is a noteworthy disposition

.. tion

In which the line is said to have one, the surface two, and the solid three, dimensions.

More whimsical was the attachment of seven to the

10 THE GREAT MATHEMATICIANS

marriage, the union of the first even with the first genuine odd number. One was further identified with

, ,

he does not know his own mind: four with justice, steadfast and s uare. Ver fanciful no doubt: but

has not Ramanujan, one of the greatest arithmeticians

o our own a ys, een oug 0 rea e POSl rve integers as his personal friends 1 In spite of this exuber-

. . .. ,

porary, Eudemus, shrewdly remarked that' they changed geometry into a liberal science; they diverted arithmetic

rom e service 0 commerce .

To Pythagoras we owe the very word mathematics

.

USIC

This classification is the origin of the famous Quad-

rivium of knowledge.

In geometry Pythagoras or his followers developed

. .

of these must have been ver well known. If we

think of each piece in such a figure as a unit, the question arises, can we fill a flat surface with repeti-

. ... .

.

of inquiry was what first led to the theorem that the three angles of a triangle are together equal to two right angles. The same train of thought also extends

THALES AND PYTHAGORAS 11

, ,

re ular solids. One of the dia rams Fi . 3 shows six

equal triangles filling flat space round their central point. But five such equilateral triangles can likewise be fitted

five such regular figures, and that in the plane there is a very limited number of associations of regular

space- Ing gures. e t ee sImp est regu ar so I s, including the cube, were known to the Egyptians. But

.. .

o

two-the dodecahedron with its twelve enta onal faces

and the icosahedron. N owada ys we so often become acquainted with these regular solids and plane figures

. . . .

mensuration and plane geometry that we fail to see their full simplicity and beauty.

Another kind of problem that interested Pythagoras

His solu-

The main problem consisted in drawing, upon a given straight line, a figure that should be the size of one and

t e s ape 0 anot er grven gure. In the course of the solution one of three things was boun~ to happen. The

,

of, or exceed the len th of the iven strai ht line.

Pythagoras thought it proper to draw attention to these three possibilities; accordingly he introduced the terms

. . .

,

nomenclature was adopted by Apollonius, the great student of the conic section because the same threefold

characteristics presented themselves in the ~onstr?ction

eve. n we woo ow po omus SIca

the curve the parabola, the ellipse, or the hyperbola, as the case rna be. The same threefol cla i c .

underlies the signs =, <, > in arithmetic. Many a time throughout the

FIG. 4. proved to be the key to further discoveries.

UA,..rAI.l..UP e, I IS C ose y connec e WI e eory

of irrational numbers; and this brings us to the greatest

achievement of P tha or s . . . .'

covering the (aA.oyoP) irrational. In other words, he

prove a I was not a ways possible to find a common measure f?r two g~ven lengths a and b. The practice

very primitive. Here is a long line a, into which the shorter line, b fits three times, with a still shorter piece 0

, .

is no such remainder c, the line b measures a; and a is called a multiple of b. If, however, there is a remainder

0, urt er BU IVISlon might perhaps account for each length a, b, c without remainder: experiment might show, for instance, that in tenths of inches, a = 17,

THALES AND PYTHAGORAS 13

b = 5 0 = 2. At one time it was thou ht that it was

always possible to reduce lengths a and b to such multiples

o a sma er engt . appeare 0 e SImp y a ques ion of patient subdivision, and sooner or l.ater the ~~s~red

in the present example, is found by measuring b with c. For 0 fits twice into b with a remainder d; and d fits

5 10 15 17 measured from the left in uarter inches,

they occur at distances 2, 7, 12, 17, from the right. These numbers form a typical arithmetical progres-

.. . .

,

would be incentive for a Pythagorean to study them further.

Ine a , ,

more technically, this reduction of the ratio a : b to 17 : 5 would have been a reeable to the P ha orean. It

exactly fitted in with his philosophy; for it helped to reduce space a~d geometry to pure nurobe.r. Then came

,

. ha t some thin in

geometry eluded whole numbers. We do not know exactly how this discovery of the irra~ional to.ok place,

a oug wo ear y xa p _

a is the diagonal and b is the side of a square, no commeasure can be found' nor can it be found in a

second example, when a line a is divided in golden section

Into parts an c. y t IS IS mean a e ra 10 0

a, the whole line, to the part b is equal to the ra~io of

with remainder d: and then d may be fitted once into 0 with a remainder e: and so on. It is not hard to prove that such lengths a, b, 0, d, • • • form a geometrical

14 THE GREAT MATHEMATICIANS

,

measure is never to be found.

If we prefer algebra to geometry we can verify this as follows. ,Since it is given that a = b + o and also

. ,

quadratic equation for the ratio a: b, whose solution ives the result

a : b = y'5 + 1 : 2.

The presence of the surd y'5 indicates the irrational.

The "?-nd~rlying reaso~ why such a problem came to

hood (p. 7); for every line therein is divided in this olden section. The star has five lines each cut into

a

FIG. 5.

- _- ,

Aristotle suggests that the Pythagorean proof of its

irrationalit was substantiall as follows:

If the ratio of diagonal to side is commensura~le, let

1 e p : q, were p an ar woe nu e s

one another. Then p and q denote the number of equal di isions in the dia onal and the side of a B uare

respectively. But since the square on the diagonal is double that on the side, it follows that p2 = 2q2.. Hence

sequently q2 to be 2r2. This requires q to be even; which is impossible because two numbers p, ~, _prime to

eac 0 er canno 0 e even. 0 e orrg na

position is untenable: no common measure can exist; and the ratio is therefore irrational.

This is an interesting early example of an indirect

THALES AND PYTHAGORAS 15

roof or reductio ad absurdum· and as such it is aver

important step in the logic of mathematics.

e can now sum up e ma ema ica accomp 18 - ~ents of these early Greek philosophers. They adva~c.ed

school course in the subject. They made substantial progress in the theore~ical sid~ of arithmetic and algebra.

a+b 2ab

. -- ..

• 2 •• a+b

which involves the arithmetical and harmonicaI means of two numbers. Inde,ed, to the Babylonians the Gr~eks

,

method of counting by sixties in arithmetic. But the lacked our arithmetical notation and such useful

abbreviations as are found ~n the theory of indices.

rom a presen - a y s an pOln ese resu s ma y e

regarded as elementary: it is otherwise with their dis-

r irrati In .

a piece of essentially advanced mathematics. As it upset ma~y of the ~ccepted geometrical proofs it came

the attempt to retrieve the position, and in the end this was triumphantly regained by Eudoxus,

CHAPTER II

A SECOND stage in the history of mathematics occupied the fifth and fourth centuries B.C., and

IS associated wit t ens. or a ter t e won er u victories at Marathon and Salamis early: in the fifth century,

a osition of re-eminence. The cit became not onI

the political and commercial, but the intellectual centre of the Grecian world. Here philosophers congregated

, -----_1

mathematicians and astronomers. Perhaps the greatest among these were Hippocrates, Plato, Eudoxus and

~~~C~~'J~~, ID.

Thales and Pythagoras had laid the foundations of eometr and arithmetic. The Athenian school con-

centrated upon special aspects of the superstructure; and, w~ether by accident or design, fo~d themsely-es

cube whose volume is double that of a given cube; (ii) th~ trisection of a given angle; and (iii) the squaring

a ewe e, or, e emp 0 n a square w ose area

is equal to that of a given circle. These problems would naturall resent themselves in a s stematic stud of

geometry; while, as years passed and no solutions were

ort coming ey wou a trac mcreasmg attention.

Such is their inherent stubbornness that not until the

problems found. Their innocent enunciations are at once an invitation and a paradox. Early attempts to 16

. ,

Hippocrates discovered that two moon-shaped figures could be drawn whose areas were to ether e ual to that

of a right-angled triangle. This diagram (Fig. 6) with its thr.ee sen:icircles desc!ibed on the respec~ive sides. of

a single circle than that of these lunes, or lunules, as they ~re called, bounded by pairs of circular arcs. Yet

o e cas.

In this by-product of the main problem Hippocrates ave the first exam le of a solution in uadratures. B

this is meant the r

FIG. 6.

a curve that had been discovered b Menaechmus in

an attempt to duplicate the cube. This shows how very interdependent mathematics had now become with its

. . ..

led to the discovery of many other new curves, including the ellipse, the hyperbola, the quadratrix, the

conchoid (the shell), the cissoid (the ivy lea ), varIOUS

. .

1 ,

The Greeks now found it useful to adopt a special classification for their roblems callin them lane

solid and linear. Problems were plane if their solution depended only on the use of straight lines and circles. These were of distinctly the Pythagorean type. They

and

shows true mathematical insight, because later experience has revealed close algebraic and analytic parallels.

or examp e, t e pane pro em correspon s III a ge ra to th~ problem soluble by q~adratic equations. The Greeks

fa mous roblems above were soluble b lane methods.

It is here that they were wrong: for by solid or linear methods the probleI?-s were not ne?essarily insolubl~.

from Ionia to Athens was ANAXAGORAS (1 500-428 B.C.), who came from near Smyrna. He is said to have neglected

his poss~ssions, whi.ch were c?nsiderable, in order. to

o I se I, , ,

what was the object of being born, he remarked: 'The investi ation of the sun moon and heaven.' In Athens

he shared the varying fortunes of his friend Pericles, the ~rea.t states~an, and at one time w~s imprisoned ~or

ing of the circle " a brief but interesting allusion to the famous problem. Nor has the ~e?metry .of the circle

su ere un u y om e cap IVI y 0 I S evo ees. Centuries later another great chapter was opened, when the Russians flun Poncelet an officer servin under

Napoleon, into prison, where he discovered the circular

points at In nity, naxagoras, owever, was amous

chiefly for his work in astronomy.

1 .

came from Chios to Athens a bout, the middle of the fifth A lawsuit. originally lured hjm to the city:

,

of Athenian citizens were varied: they were not all artists, sculptors, statesmen, dramatists, philosophers,

or onest seamen, In spite 0 t e wea t t ere an t en assembled. Aftpr enduring their ridicule first at being 1 Not the great physician.

EUDOXUS

19

and

elementary mathematics; in particular he devoted his attention to properties of the circle. To-day his actual

wor survi ves among eorems 0 uc 1 , a t o:ug

. .. .

of the statement that circles are to one another in the ratio of the squares on their diameters. This is e uiva-

ent to t e iscovery 0 t e formula nr2 for the area of a circle in terms of its radius. It means that a certain

,

his method does not ive the actual numerical value of

n. It is thought that he reached his conclusions by looking up?n a ~ircle. as the liI?iting f~rm of a ~egular

,

an early instance of the method of exhaustions-a particular use of approximation from below and above to

imit.

e e 0 0 ex a us Ions was an important link in the chain of thought culminating in the work of Eudoxus and Archimedes

the prospect of unra veIling the mystery of irrational numbers, that had sorely puzzle~ the early Pythagoreans,

useful device of reducing one theorem to another. The Pyth.agoreans already had sho~ how to find the geo-

ween 0 magm u es y a geome nca

construction. They merely drew a square equal to a

iven rectan le. Hi ocrates now .

cate a cube was tantamount to finding two such geometric

a : x = x : b, then x2 = ab,

an I

a:x= x:y= y:2a

then x3 = 2a3• Consequently if a was the length of the

edge of the given cube, x would be that of a cube twice

e

We must, of course, bear in mind that the Greeks had no such convenient algebraic notation as the above.

though they went t roug the same reasoning an reached the same conclusions as we can, their statements

. .

,

in these concise s mbols of al ebra.

It is supposed that the study of the properties of two such me~ns, x and y, between given lengths a and b, led

should say, nowadays, the above continued proportions indicate the e uations x2 = a , and x = 2a2• These

equations represent a .parabola. and a .hyperbo!a: ta~eri

oge er ey e ermme a pOln 0 In ersec Ion w IC is the key to the problem. This is an instance of a solid solution for the du lication of the cube. It re re-

sents the ripe experience of the Athenian school; for MENAECHMUS (? 375-325 B.C.), to whom it is credited,

where three surfaces meet is a point. The two walls and th~ ceiling meeting at the corner of a room g~ve a

convemen examp e. u wo curve wa s, mee Ing a ?urved ceiling w~uld ~lso make a corner,. and _in fa~t

e 0 e

same problem of the cube. The author of this geometrical

nove ty was RCHYTAS (. 400 B.C.), a contemporary 0 Me~aechmus. . ~his time the. pro?le~ was reduced to

point was located as the meeting-place of three surfaces. ~or one surface Archytas chose that gene~ated by a

,

through the ring is completely stopped up. His other surfaces were more commonplace, a cylinder and a cone.

ith t is unusual choice of sur aces e succee e in solving the problem. When we bear in mind how little was known, in his day, about solid geometry, this

EUDOXUS

21

antiquities. Archytas, too, was one of the first to write

upon mechanics, and he is said to have been very skilful in making toys and models-a wooden dove which

. . ,

, , ,

useful to give to children to occupy them from breaking things about the house (for the young are incapable of

this Athenian era, Archytas lived at Tarentum in South Italy. He found time to take a considerable art in

the public life of his city, and is known for his enlighten.ed attit~de in his treatment of slaves and in the

,

also in touch with the hiloso hers of Athens numberin

Plato among his friends. He is said upon one occasion t_o have used his influence in high quarters to save the

Between Orotona and Tarentum upon the shore of the ulf of Southern Ital was the cit of Elea: and

wi~h each of these plac?s. we may associate a great

P 1 osop er or ma ema ician, ro ona y agoras had instituted his lecture-room; nearly two centuries later Arch tas made his m ha i m

But about midway through the intervening period there lived at Elea the philosopher ZENO. This acutely original

.. . , .. . ..

ideas about motion and the infinitesimal were very subtle indeed. For example, he criticized the infinite geo-

. .

me rica progressIon y propOSIng e we - own puzz e of Achilles and the Tortoise. How, asked Zeno, can

., . .

a handicap 1 For if Achilles starts at A and the tortoise

at B, t en w en c iUes reaches B the tortoise is at 0, and when Achilles reaches 0 the tortoise is at D. As

,

never overtakes the tortoise. But actually he may do so; and this is a paradox. The point of the inquiry is not when, but how does Achilles overtake the tortoise.

Somewhat similar questions were asked b DEMOCRITUS,

the great philosopher of Thrace, who was a contem-

en us as ong been famous as the originator of the atomic theory, a s eculation that was immediate I develo ed b E icurus

and later provided the great theme for the Latin poet Lucretius. It is, however, only. quite recently that. any

book of Archimedes entitled the Method. We learn from i t that Archimedes

regar e emocri us as the first mathematician to state correct I th

mula for the volume of a

cone or a pyramiu. ac

of these volumes was one-

.

scribing cylinder, or prism, . standing on the same base.

these solids as built up of innumerable parallel

ayers. T ere would be no difficul!y in the case

,

la er would be e ual. But

for the cone or pyramid the sizes of layer upon layer would t~per off to a ~oint. The appended ~ia~ram (Fig.

, ,

this tapering of the layers, although the picture that Democritus had in mind consisted of very much thinner ..

ayers. e was puzz ed y their diminishing sizes.

. ,

~W~L~~, e

unequal, they will make the cone irregular as having many indentations like ste sand unevennesses· but if the

are equal, the sections will be equal, and the cone will appear to have the property of the cylinder and to be made up of equal, not unequal circles, which is very absurd.'

EUDOXUS

23

,

It exhibits the The notion of

algebraic turn of mind which attracted them to the pattern or arra~gement of things. But here the acute

, ,

we do not know.

This brin s us to the reat arithmetical work at

Athens, associated with the names of PLATO (429-348 B.C) and EUDOXUS (408-355 B.C.).

disciple, both of whom were well read mathematicians. PI~t~ was perhaps an original inve~tigator; .but whether

, mmense In uence on

the course that mathematics was to take, by founding and conductin in Athens his famous Academ. Over

the entrance of his lecture room his students read the

e ing inscrip ion, e no one es 1 ute 0 geometry

enter my doors'; and it was his earnest wish to give

his u ils . . .

he, should acquire no mere bundle of knowledge, but be trained to see below the surface of things, seeking

. .

,

is essential: and numbers, in particular, must be studied, simply as numbers and not as embodied in

any ing. ey impar a c aracter to nature; or instance, the periods of the heavenly bodies can only be characterized by invoking the use of irrationals.

Originally the Greek word a.(!l()p,ot~ from which we

natural numbers,

, "

number, the thing measured l' But by including

irrationals as numbers Plato made a great advance:

e was In act ea mg WIt w at we nowa ays cal the positive real numbers. Zero and negative numbers

There is randeur here in the im ortance which Plato

ascribes to arithmetic for forming the mind: and this is matched by his views on geometry, 'the subject

.. . ,

(YBCOpBreta = land measuring) but which is really an art, a more than human miracle in the e es of those

who can appreciate it. In his book, the Tvmaeue,

. ..

were e am rcauv exnounua me viewa or ui Timaeus, the Pythagorean, reference is made to the five re ular solids and to their su osed si nificance in

nature. The speaker tells how that the four elements earth, air, fire and water have characteristic shapes:

blunter icosahedron to water, while the Creator used the fifth, the dodecahedron, for the Universe itself. Is

.

,

J •

Among his pupils was a young man of Cnidus, named EUDOXUS, who came to Athens in great poverty, and,

like many another poor stu ent, a a strugg e 0 maintain himself. To relieve his pocket he lodged down by the sea at the Piraeus, and every day used to trudge

·

In

Italy and Sicily, meeting Archytas, the er men of renown. About 368 B.C.

at the age of forty, Eudoxus returned to Athens in compf1ny with a c?nsiderable following of pupils, about

In astronomy the great work of Eudoxus was his

theory of concentric spheres .. the .strange

liance. For Eudoxus placed the doctrine of irrationals upon a thoroughly sound basis, and so well was his

Weierstrass during the nineteenth century. An immediate effect of the work was to restore confidence in

the volume of a cone and of

crates on the

area of a circle. Thanks to Eudoxus explained.

method was

way how this great object was achieved. This study

of arithmetic at Athens was' stimulated

VGU v.u. ~::i.! .•

V3, yl5, v'6, \1'7, V8, v'lO, VII, V1 ,

, . ., Plato

'for some reason he stopped'. The omissions in the list are obvious: v'2 had been discovered by Pythagoras through the ratio of diagonal to side of a square,

while v'4, v'9, v'16 are of course irrelevant. Now it

,

of approach to the number. It was this second problem that came prominently to the fore: it provided the

arithmetical aspect of the method of exhaustions already applied to the. circle:. and _it revealed a wonderf:ul

from a later commentator Theon of 8m na.

Unhampered by a decimal notation (which here is a positive hindrance, useful as it is. in co"?-ntless other

,

ing engaging fashion. To approximate to v'2 they

1 1 built a ladder of whole numbers. A brief

2 3 scrutiny of the ladder shows how the rungs

,

are evise : , ,

12 17 = 5, 2 + 5 = 7, 5 + 7 = 12, and so on.

29 41 Each run of the ladder consists of two

etc. numbers x and y, whose ratio approaches nearer and, n~ar~r to the ratio, 1 : v'2, the further down

y2 - 2X2 = ± 1.

,

gorean notion of hyperbole and ellipsis; it was regarded as ver si nificant, and was called b the Greeks the

'dyad' of the' great and small '.

Such a ladder could be constructed for any irrational; and another very pretty instance, which has been

1 2 2 3

sum of the pair on the preceding rung, so "that the ladder may be extended with the

3 5 5 8

greatest ease. In this case the ratios ap}?roximate, again bY,th,e little more and the

,

found that the rovide the arithmetical a roach to

the golden section of a line AB, namely when C divides AB so that

A

c

B

FIG, 8.

CB : AC = AC : AB. In fact, AC is roughly i of the len th AB but more near! 1i of AB' and so on. It

is only fair to say that this simplest of all such ladders has not yet been found in the ancient literature, but

. ... ..

goreans were familiar with it. The series 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, . . . was known in mediaeval times to Leonardo of

a : b, whether or not this is irrational 1 The wonderful answer to this questi?n i~ w~at has made Eudoxl!-s so

a regular stride of length a, and his short friend B takes a stride b. Now suppose that eight strides of A cover

t e same groun as t irteen 0 : In t s case t e single strides of A and B are in the ratio 13: 8. The repetition of strides, to make them cover a considerable

distance, acts as a magnifying glass and helps in the

.. .

ed

by Eudoxus, Let us, says he in effect, multiply our magnitudes a, and b, whose ratio is required, and see

•

Let us, he continues, be able to recognize if a, and b

are e ual and if not which is reater. Then if a is

the greater, let us secondly be able to find multiples

league boots and the short man maybe Tom Thumb. Sooner or later the dwarf will be able to overtake one

.

ratios go, the statement (ii) would suffice; m and n are whole. numbers and the ratios a, : b, c : d are each equal

o e ra 10 n : m. u e essence 0 e new eory ies

in (i) and (iii), because (ii) never holds for incommensurables-the geometrical equivalent of irrationals in

arithmetic. But it is extraordinary that out of these

on record the above Axiom of Archimedes. To continue our illustration mark in time is not stridin and

Eudoxus excluded marking time. However small the B~ride b might be, it had a genuin~ length. Eudoxus

had already set, and into which many a later victim was to fall. So the axiom was a notice-board to warn

. .

e wary. a sa,

required a and b to be magnitudes of the same kind. For if a denoted len th and b wei ht no number of

ounces could be said to exceed the length of a foot.

CHAPTER III

ALEXANDRIA: EUCLID ARCHIMEDES

AND APOLLONIUS

the scene of mathematical learning shifted from Euro e to Africa. B an extraordinar se uence of

brilliant yictories the young sol~ier-prince, Alexander of

ace oma, conquere e reman wor ,an concerve

the idea of forming a great empire. But he died at the

a e of thirt -three 323 B. nl w a

ing the city of Alexandria. He had planned this stronghold near the mouth of the Nile on a magnificent scale,

. .

and Arab. There, what was finest in Greek philosophy was treasured in great libraries: the mathematics of

e ancien s was per ec e: e In e ec ua gemus 0 th~ . Greek c~me into living touch with ~he moral ~nd

of Old Testament Scriptures was roduced: and in due

time it was t ere that the great philosophers of the early Christian Church. taught and prospered: In spite

years, but suffered grievous losses in the wilder times that followed. The end came in A.D. 642, when a great

A great library, reputed to hold 700,000 volumes, was lost or destro ed in this series of disasters. But ha il

a remnant of its untold wealth filtered through to later days when the Arabs, who followed the original warriors, came to appreciate the spoils upon which they had

30

fallen. Ptolemy, the successor of Alexander in his

. .

among the earliest of the teachers was EUCLID. We know little of. his life and .c~aracter, but he most prob-

a y passe IS years 0 Ul Ion a ens e ore accep - ing the invitation of Ptolemy to settle in Alexandria.

For twent or hirt r . . .

s teac ng ore nota e ruit In the achievements of Archimede.s an~ Apollonius, two of the greatest members

to read geometry with Euclid, on learning the first theorem asked, 'What shall I get b learnin these

t mgs . uclid calle his slave and said, 'Give him threepence, since he must make gain out of w ha t he

, . .

the base angles of an isosceles triangle 'are forced to be equa~, with?~t any nasty proof', is but r~-echoing

triangle were greater than the third, as was evident to an ass. And no doubt the told Euclid so.

In the Elements Eu~lid set about writing an ~xh~ustive

cou ema lcs-a co ossa as even In IS aYe

The Work consisted of thirteen books, and the subjects of several books are extremel well know

II, IV, VI on lines, areas and simple regular plane figures are mostly Pythagorean, while Book IlIon

,

was needed to justify the properties of similar figures discussed in Book VI. Books VII, VIII and IX are

an me rca , giving an In eres mg accoun 0 e eory of numbers; and again much here is probably Pythagorean. Prime and composite numbers are introduced

-a relatively late distinction; so are the earlie~ G.C.M.

an ... 0 num ers, e eory 0 geome rica progressions, and in effect the theorem am+n = aman, to ether with a method of summin the ro ression b

a beautiful use of equal ratios. Incidentally Euclid utilized this method to ~ive ~is perfect numbers, such .as

the curious; they are far harder to find than the rarest postage . s~amps.. The ~inth specime~ alone has thirty-

,

Book X of Euclid places the writer in the forefront amon anal sts. It is lar el concerned with the

doctrine of irrational numbers, particularly of the type V(Va ± yb), where a an~ b ar? po~itive integers.

XII, which illustrates the same method of exhaustions b formall rovin Hi ocrates' theorem for nr2 the

area of a circle. Finally in Book XIII we have the clim~x to which all this stately. procession has ~ee.n

,

soothin in these da s of bustle to contem late the

working of their minds. This very fine book gives and proves the constructions for the five .regular s~lids of

, ,

dodecahedron, the symbol of the Universe itself.

By this great work Euclid has won the admiration

an e pe to orm t e mm s 0 a IS successors. To be sure a few logical blemishes occur in his pages, the

leanin s " . .. .

wonder is that so much has survived unchan ed. In

point 0 orm e Ie t nothing to be desired, for he first laid down his careful definitions, then his common

" .

, ,

proceeding with the orderly arrangement of their consequences. There were, however, certain gaps and tauto-

logies among these preliminaries- of his work: they

. .. .

his books' and it has been one of the obi ects of latter-

day criticism to supply what Euclid left unsaid.

But on one point Euclid was triumphant; in his

.. .

.

hide, by a plausible axiom, his inability to prove a certain property of coplanar lines. Most of his other assump-

tions, or necessary bases of hIS arguments, were sue

.

""D~"'''''' •

the case of parallel lines he started with the following

elaborate su osition called the Parallel Postulate:

If a straight line meet two straight lines, so as to make the two interior angles on the same side of it taken

. . .

that side on which are the angles which are less than two right .angles:

y eavmg IS p ,

its converse, Euclid laid himself open to ridicule and attack. Surel said the critics this is no TO er

assumption; it must be capable of proof. Hundreds

o attempts were vam y rna e 0 remove IS pOS U a e by proving its equivalent; but each so-called proof

.. - . . .

carne with the discovery in the nineteenth century of non-Euclidean geometry, when fundamental reasons

cence, like a natural outcrop of rock in the plot of ~round that otherwise had been so beautifully smoothed.

Many 0 IS writings ave come own 0 us, ea Ing with astronomy, I?-usic and o~tics~ _ besides nu~e~~us

.itle, and the Porisms are lost; and we only learn of .hem indir~ctly through ~ap~us, another great comme.n-

J •

~o discover what porisms were, and many geometers, notably Simson in Scotland and Chasles in France, have

tried to do so.

, ,

workers in projective geometry of our own days. Geometry at Alexandria was in fact a wide subject,

and it has even een t oug t y some a e porism» consis~ed of an analytical method, foreshadowing the

Euclid was followed b ARCHIMEDES of Samos, and

ApOLLONIUS of Perga. After the incomparable discoveries of Eu~oxus, so well consolidat~d by Euclid, it

launched; and here were the giants to do it. Archimedes one of the eatest of all mathematicians, was

the practical man of. com~on. sense! the ~ e~on 0

IS ay, w 0 roug imagi ve

bear upon metrical geometry and mechanics, and even . th inte ral calculus. A ollonius one of the

greatest of geometers, endowed with an eye to see form and design, followed the lead of Menaechmus,

and in due time the harvest was ingathered by Kepler and Newton.

Itt e IS ARCHIMEDES.

. ~

in the deadly Punic wars, and Sicily with its capital S acuse la as a 'No man's land' between them.

During the siege of Syracuse by the Romans, 0 me es directed his skill towards the discomfiture of the enemy, so that they learnt to fear the machines and contrivances

EUCLID AND ARCHIMEDES 35

, , ,

cried out to his men, 'Shall we not make an end of f htin a ainst this eometrical Briareus who uses our

ships like cups to ladle water from the sea, drives off our sambuoa ignominiously with cudgel-blows, and by

, . ,

But all to no purpose, for if the soldiers did but see a piece of rope or wood projecting above the wall, they

. . . .

wou cry, ere 1 IS,

setting some engine in motion against them, and would . backs and run a wa. Of course the eo-

metrical Briareus attached no importance to these toys;

t ey were ut e rversions 0 geome ry a pay. Ignoble and sordid, unworthy of written record, was

, , £ ar whic

was directed to use and profit. Such was the outlook of Archimedes.

.

He had drawn a diagram in the sand on the ground and stood lost in thought, when a soldier struck him down.

As Whitehead has remar re :

'The death of Archimedes at the hands of a Roman soldier

is symbolical of a wor e

'lit

which waits upon practicality. They were not dreamers enough to arrive at new points of view, which could give more Iundan rIver the forces of nature, No Roman lost his

life because he was absorbed in the contemplation of a mathematical diagram.'

mathematical range, and bear the incisive marks of enius. It has ahead been said that he invented the

integral calculus. By this is meant that he gave strict proofs for finding the areas, volumes and centres of gravity of curves and surfaces, circles, spheres, conics,

. . of findin a tan ent to a

36 THE GREAT MATHEMATICIANS

he even embarked on what is nowadays called

,

12 + 22 + 32 + ... + n2 = In(n + 1)(2n + 1),

. n ,2n n

This last is the concise present-day statement of a geometrical the~rem, arising in his i~vestiga~ion of, the

,

ways, such as

Elsewher

imations to ~

in the form

which is an example of the ladder-arithmetic of the Pythag,oreans (p. 26). As these two fractions are

,

it is natural to suppose that Archimedes was familiar

. " . . .

further continuation of this last fraction, with denominators 10, 5, 10, 5 in endless succession. The same

.

reveals Archimedes in a confidential mood, for in it he lifts the veil and tells us how some of his results were reached. He weighe.d his p~rabola to ascertain the area

EUCLID AND ARCHIMEDES 37

that the arabolic area is two-thirds of the area of a

circumscribing parallelogram (Fig. 9). He admits the value of s.uch experime!1tal methods for arriving at

rigidly proved.

Indeterminate equations, with more unknowns than

given equations, ave attracted great interest from the

. .

. ape, ere may e one equa Ion

for two unknowns :

3x - 2 = 5.

Many whole numbers x and y satisfy this equation, but it is often interest-

s

to do so. Such problems are

VVA. ... A.A.vC e

wi th con tin u e d fractions and er-

ha ps Archimedes

was eglnnlng to recognize this. At

The problem

dealt with eight herds, four of bulls and four 01

cows, accor mg to t e co ours, w ite, and dappled. Certain facts were stated;

and the pro blem required, for its solution, the exact size of each herd. In other words there were eight

, ,

when turned into algebra, the data of the problem provided only seven equations. One of these equations, typical of all seven, can readily be formed from the

38 THE GREAT MATHEMATICIANS

bulls, that of the white bulls and z that of the ell ow

bulls, it follows that

x = (I + +)y + z.

From seven such equations for eight unknowns, of which only three a, y, z occur in this particular equation, all

an infini

eight unknowns. The simplest solution of the above equation, taken apar~ from its c0:r:ttext! is x = 14,

, lOS 0 In Wl e 0 er

six equations, a more complicated set of numbers for

x z must be found. Who would uess tha h

smallest value of x satisfying all seven such innocent

00 ng equa Ions IS anum er excee lng 2 IDl Ion 1 In our decimal notation this is a number seven figures

. .

stating that 'when the white bulls joined in number with the black, they stood firm, with d~pth and b!eadth

,

Taking this to mean that the total number of black and white bulls was square, an enterprising investigator,

y years ago, s owe t at t e sma lest such herd amounted to a number 200,000 figures long. The plains

. . ,

Wa .

The so-called Axiom of Archimedes bears his name probably because of its application on a .grand scale,

was finite. This appears in the Sand-Reckoner, a work full of quaint interest, and important for its influence

'There .ar~ so~e, ,King ~elon, who think that the number of

. no

only that which exists about Syracuse and the rest of Sicily but also that which is found in every region whether inhabited or uninhabited. And again, there are some who, without regarding it as infinite, yet think that no number has been named

EUCLID AND ARCHIMEDES 39

So far from wee in to see such uantities of sand

Archimedes cheerfully fancies the whole Universe to be stuffed with sandgrains and then proceeds to count them.

. . .

of the ratio of the centre of a sphere to the surface'it bein eas to see that this is im ossible, the centre

having no magnitude '-he gently puts Aristarchus

. .

rIg an en urns 0 e pro em. IrS e se es the question, how many grains of sand placed side by

. iameter of a 0 seed.

Then, how many poppy seeds would measure a finger breadth. From poppy seed to finger breadth, from

reductions. Mathematically he is developing something more elaborate than the theory of indices: his arith-

from 1 to 100,000,000 = 108, and the first period ends

with the number 10800,000,000. This number can be exp:essed mor~ compa~tly as (~08)108, but in th~ o:dinary

one figures. Archimedes advances through further eriods of this enormous size, never ausin in his task

until the hundred-millionth period is reached .

.

,

but that to those who are conversant therewith and have given thought to the question of the distances and sizes of the earth,

. .

~onviction. And i~ was for ~his reason that I ~houg~t the sub-

One cannot pass from the story of Archimedes without

. . . .

,

which he created a new application for mathematics. Like the rest of his writings this was masterly. Finally, in a book now lost, he discussed the semiregular solids,

. .

40 THE GREAT MATHEMATICIANS

re ular solids. When each face of the solid is to be a

regular polygon, exactly thirteen and no more forms are possible, as Kepler was one of the first to verify.

. . . ..

ApOLLONIUS of Perga in Pamphilia U 262-200 B.C.}, who earned the title' the great geometer'. Little is known

of him but that e came as a young m~~ to Alexandria,

, e ew ere, n VISl e erga ,

where he met Eudemus, one of the early historians of our science. A ollonius wrote extensivel and man

of his books are extant. His prefaces are admirable, sh0'Yi~g how perfect was the style of the great mathe-

of

and prettiest of these

ODIUS curves as

ere

perspective leads on to projective geometry; and in this manner A ollonius sim lified his roblems. By

pure geometry he arrived at the properties of conics which we nowadays express by equations such as

and ax2 + bxy + cy~ = 1, and even Va~ + v'by. 1.

, ,

of certain squares and a rectangle, the total area being constant. From our analytical geometry of conics he had clearly very little to learn except the notation,

. .. . .

EUCIJID AND ARCHIMEDES 41

curve at right angles and are called normals. He found that as many as four normals could be drawn from

. . .

,

or touches a given line, or touches a given circle, it is said to satisfy one condition. So the problem of Apol-

in fact, one of them occurs in the Elements of Euclid.

Apollonius wa~ also a competent arithmetician and

__ 'U~..L'UV'

It may now be wondered what was left for their successors to discover after Archimedes and A ollonius had

combed the field 1 So complete was their work that onl ~ ~ few trivial gaps needed to be filled,. suc~ as the

looked. The next great step could not be taken until algebra was ~b~east of geometry, and until men like

4

CHAPTER IV

ITH the dea th o~ Apollonius the golden age of

ree ma ema lCS came 0 an time of Thales there had been almost a continuous chain mathematicians. But until about the

third century A.D., when Hero, Pappus and Diophantus

once more roug t arne to exan ria, ere seems 0 ha~e. been no mathematician ~f pre:eminence. During

Roman culture had discouraged Greek mathematics, although a certain interest in mechanics and astronomy

,

tators, MENELAUS and PTOLEMY. Menelaus lived about the ear A.D. 100, and Ptolemy was perhaps fifty years

his junior. There is a strange monotony In trying to detail any facts whatsoever about these men-so little

. . . . .

,

same uncertaint han s over Hero Pa us and Dio-

phantus, whose names may be associated together as forming the Second Alexandrian School, because they

300. Yet Pappus and Diophantus are surrounded by m ster. Each seems to be a solitary echo of bygone

an WI orr con em 0 ,

MENELAUS is interesting, more particularly to geometers, because he made a considerable contribution to s herical

trigonometry. Many new theorems occur in his writings -new in the sense that no earlier records are known 42

SECOND ALEXANDRIAN SCHOOL 43

.

work of Menelaus is the more significant because he used it to rove a similar theorem for a triangle drawn

on a sphere. Menelaus gave several theorems which hold equally well for triangles and other figures, whether

.

include a ver fundamental theorem known as the cross

ral'io property of a transversal drawn across a pencil of lines. This too is ' modern geometry'. He also g~ve

triangle are together greater than two right angles.

pilation is known as the Almagest-a name which is thought .to be a~ Arabic abbreviation of the original

of mathematics; and through the Arabs it ultimately found a footing in mediaeval Europe. In this way a

cer ain pane ary eory ca e e 0 emarc ByS em bec~me c~~monly accepted, holding sway f?r many cen-

of several competing explanations of planetary motion, and ~nterp:reted . the facts. by an ingenious combinatio?-

, .

theory was the supposition that the Earth is fixed in space: and, if this is granted, his argument follows very adequately." But there were other explanations, such as

that of Aristarchus, the friend of Archimedes, who

,

by his own well-known system, centred on the Sun, he was restoring a far older theory to its rightful

pace.

H~RO of Alexandria w~s a very practical. genius with

assumed that all the rea t rna thema ticians of the Hel-

lenic world were Greek; but it is supposed that Hero was not. He was probably an Egyptian. At any rate

.. . . .

,

engineering and surveying. He not only made discoveries in eometr and h sics but is also re uted to

have invented a steam engine. One of his most inter~sting theorems proyes that, .when light from an object

instance of a principle of least action, which was formally adopted for optics a~d dynamics by Ha~ilton in the

, s n y een Incorpora e

in the work of Einstein. We may, therefore, regard Hero as the ioneer of Relativit c. 250 A.D .•

At the beginning of the fourth century there was a

revrva 0 pure ma ema lCS, w en somet lng 0 t a P~thagorean en:h~siasm for .geometry a~d algebra

Pappus and Diophantus. PAPPUS wrote a great commentary c~lled the Collection ((1vvayroy~); and happily

, -

with the lost work of Euclid and Apollonius. .'As an

expositor, Pappus rivals Euclid himself, both in com-

p eteness 0 esign an wea t 0 out 00. 0 iscover what Euclid and his followers were about, from reading the Collection, is like trying to follow a masterly game

SECOND ALEXANDRIAN SCHOOL 45

the spirit of each great epoch. The space-filling figures of Pythagorean geometry made him brood over the

honey cells with the smallest enclosing surface. How far the bee knows this is not for the mathematician

to say, but the act IS pel' ect y true. riangu ar, or square, cells could be crowded together, each holding

the hexa onal cell re uires least wax. Like the mirrors

of Hero, this again suggests least action in nature: and Pappus was disclos~ng another _important l~ne of inquiry.

,

enclosed by a given superficial area 1 This was perhaps the earliest su gestion of a branch of mathematics called

the calculus of variations.

. . .

os s r In, n ,

famous theorem which determines the volume of a surface of revolution. His leadin idea rna be ras ed

by first noting that the volume of a straight tube is known if its cro~s-section A and its Iength l are giyen.

no longer straight but circular. The cross-section A was taken to be the same at every place; but the length

o e u e wou nee ur 1 , the length of an inflated bicycle tyre is least if measured in r circle in contact with the rim and is

greatest round the outermost circle. This illustration

suggests tat an average or mean eng may exis or which the formula A.l ~till gives the yolume. Pappus

located his average length as that of the circle passing through the centroid of each cross-section A. By centroid is meant that speci~l point of a plane area often

46

tion A is immaterial to his result, the theorem is one

of the most general cO~cluslons In anCle~t mat ematics.

n a a .

excuse of an unconscious re-discovery, calmly annexed this theorem and it has become uniustl associated

with his name.

As two further examples of important geometrical

about the drawing of either figure. In the first (Fig.lO), A, B, C, D are four points through which various straight

lines have been drawn; and these intersect as shown at

.

,

at W. The interest of this construction lies in the fact that no matter what the sha e of the uadrilateral

ABCD may be, the lines A W, AB, AY are in harmonical

progression, n e secon gure 19., an

DEF are any t~o straight lines. Thes~ trios of 1?oints

x, Y, Z. Then it follows that X, Y, Z are themselves in line. Here the interest lies in the symmetry of the result. It has nine lines meeting by threes in nine points: but it

SECOND ALEXANDRIAN SCHOOL 47

points and lines of a figure is an early instance of reciprocation, or the principle of duality, . in geometry.

of points and lines, Pappus excelled. He gave a surrisin 1 full account of kindred ro erties connected

wit~ the. quadrilatera.l, a~d particular.ly with ~ grouping

o SIX pOln s upon a me In 0 ee paIrs. IS so-ca e

involution of six points would be effected by erasing the line ZXW in the first of the above fi ures and re-drawin

it so as to cross the other six lines at random in six distinct points.

o

F

E

FIG. 11.

Pappus throws light upon what was evident~y a very

it so very nearly inaugurates analytical geometry that it d~serves special mention. Apolloniu~, says. Pappu_s,

relation to three or four fixed lines. Suppose P were at a distance x from the first line, y from the second, z from the third, and t from the fourth. 0 Suppose further

48 THE

that these distances were measured in s ecified direc-

t!ons, but not necessarily at right angles to their several

is nothing to prevent us from multiplying together as many such ratios as we like: So from the four lines

xz yt = c, or xz = cyt.

This is a way of stating the Apollonian problem about

.. ..... . .

z, z from P to two of the lines is proportional to that of its distances y, t from the other two. When this

appens, as po omus prove, y

. . . .

to the problem, if three and not four lines are given. Pa us continues his commentar b eneralizin the

result with any number of lines: but it will be clearest if we confine ourselves to six lines.

ratios z : y, z : u, v : w. If, further, it is given that the product of these three ratios is fixed, then we can write

-. -. - = c.

y u w

a u dra w th orr 1 i

happens, the point P is constrained to lie upon a cer-

tain ocus or curve. ut after a few more remarks he tur~s aside as if ashamed of ha v!ng said something

most general statements in all ancient geometry. He had begun the theory of Higher Plane Curves. For the number of ratios involved in such a constant product

SECOND AIJEXANDRIAN SCHOOL 49

is a curve of order two, because it involves two ratios,

as is shown in the Apollonian case above. In the sImp er case, when only one ratio x : y is utilized, the locus is a

.. . ... .

.

called a curve of the first order. But Pappus had suggested curves of order higher than the second. These

,

already been discovered. The ancients had invented them for ad hoc ur oses of trisectin an an Ie and the

like: but mathematicians had to wait for Descartes to clinch the matter.

writings on algebra, and lived at the time of Pappus, or perhaps a little earlier. This we gather from a let-

. .

more, and his son was born five years later; the son lived to half .his father's age, and the father died four

1

an lOp antusmust ave rve to be eig ty- ouryearso . The .chief surviving wr~tings of Di?pha~tus are six of

,

ments of his Pol onal Numbers and Porisms. Twelve

hundred years after they were written these books began to attract the attention of scholars in Europe. As

. .,

.

the very flower of the whole of arithmetic lies hid, the ars rei et census which to-day we call by the Arabic name of Algebra.' This work of Diophantus has a two-

50 THE GREAT MATHEMATICIANS

,

of thought, it embraces literature itself. N ow we may concentrate our attention on the literal s mbol as it

appears to t e eye In a mathematical formula and in a printed sentence; or else on the thing signi~ed, on

,

s mbol. A ood notation is a valuable tool· it brin s

its own fitness and suggestiveness, it is easy to recognize and is comfortable to use. Given this tool and the

, .

their own language and in their geometrical notation the Greeks were well favoured: and a due succession

of triumphs fol~owe~. But their arithmetic an.d algebra

In SpI e 0 an u or una e no a Ion. or

the Greeks were hampered by their use of letters a, {J, for the numbers 1 2 3 and this

the flexibility of ordinary arithmetical calculations. On the other hand, the very excellence of our decimal nota-

. .. ..

,

without the help of a ball frame, was a task of some skill. The chief merits of this no~ation are the sign 0 for zero,

e use 0 one sym 0, I S meaning emg eci e y its context, to denote several distinct things, as, for exam Ie the writ in of 1 to

history of this usage has been traced to a source in

out ern n ia, ating sort y after the time of Diophantus. ,Thence it spread to the Moslem world and

In the previous chapters many algebraic formulee have occurred. They are, of course, not a literal transcription of the Greek, but are concise symbolic statements of

COND LEXANDRIAN SCHOOL 51

in geometrical form. For instance, a2 has been used

ins ea 0 e square on e ear ies examp es of this symbolic algebra occur in the work of Vieta, who

lived in the six ..

general use about the year A.D. 1650. Until that time the notation of piop~antus had been universally adopted.

,

Syncopated Algebra, Symbolic Algebra,

IP, and the like, became common among the ancients.

To D~oph.antus more than to a~y other w~ owe this

and this serves to indicate the type of complication which Dio hantus successfull faced. His s co ations

enabled him to write down, and deal with, equations involving this or similar expressions. For 250x2 he y

,

accordin to the rdi Y

was short for the Greek word meaning power (it is our word, dynamic); and ,power meant the square of the

, wanting', and that the Greek word for wanting is related to the Pythagorean term ellipse.

Those who have solved quadratic equations will re-

member the little refrain-' the square of half the co ..

. ,. . .

ventured on the easier cases of cubic equations. Yet he speaks of ' the impossible solution of the absurd equation

. . .

solution; and it was not until much later that negative numbers as thin s in themselves were contem lated.

But fractions and alternative roots of quadratic equations

presen e 0 im no 1 cu ies,

We need not go far into the puzzles of 'problems

. . ., .

~ he was, so to speak, tying one hand behind his back and successfully working single- handed. This was

c ear y e c re aw ac 0 IS notation, evert eless he cleverly solved simultaneous equations such as

val ue of symmetry in algebra.

All this is valuable for its eneral influence u on

mathematical manipulation: and had the genius 'of Diophantus taken him no f~rther, he would s~ill be respected

hei hts and his abidin work lies in the Theor of

Numbers and of Indeterminate Equations. Examples of these last occurred in the Cattle Problem of Archi-

p. 26). His name is still attached to simple equations, such as enter the Cattle Problem althou h he never

appears to have interested himself in them. Instead he

. . .

was concerne WI e more 1 cu qua ra 10

higher types, as, for example, the equation

He discovered four whole numbers x, y, z, u for which this statement was true. Centuries later his pages were

who proved to be a belated

is square 1 This problem is, in fact, impossible, as by my method I am able to prove with all rigour.' No

ou t lOp antus a experimente ar enoug WIt the easie.r looking eq~ation X4 + y4 = u2 to prove that

This brin s us to the close of the Hellenic eriod :

and we are now in a position to appreciate the contrib~tion which the Greeks made t~ mathematics. T~ey

Within a glittering heap of numerical and geometrical

uzzles and trifles-the accumulation in E t or the

East of bygone ages-the Greeks had found order. Their genius had made mathematics and music out of

. ..

relations would be seen as parts of a still grander whole. New instruments were to be invented-the decimal nota ..

we are apt to think that all accuracy is effected by examining the infinitesimal under a glass or by reducing

every mg 0 ecima s.

. ..

,

of arriving at exact results. Speaking numerically, multi lication, and not division, was the uidin rocess

of the Greeks.» The spacious definition of equal ratios which the astronomer Eudoxus bequeathed was not the work of a man with one eye glued to a micrometer.

CHAPTER V

THE RENAISSANCE: NAPIER AND

KEPLER; THE RISE OF ANALYSIS

,

and indeed European mathematics lay dormant for about a thousand ears. The histor of the science

passed almost entirely to India a~d Arabia ; and by far

e mos im por an even 0 IS ong perl s e

introduction of the Indian decimal notation into Europe.

. .. ation is due to Leonardo of

Pisa, who was mentioned on p. 27, and certainly ranks as a remarkable mathematician in these barren

,

standard of past achievements and of what the future held in store, no one rose supreme. The broad fact

remams : appus te In e mi e 0 e 0

century, and the next great forward step for Western

. .. ~

I t is still an obscure historical problem to determine

whether Indian mathematics is indepen ent 0 ree

influence: When Alexan~er conquered Eastern lands

it is safest to assume that considerable independent work was done in India. An unnamed enius invented

the decimal notation; he was followed by ARYA BHATA and BRAHMAGUPTA, who made substantial progress in algebra and trigonometry. Their work brings us to

r

the seventh century! an era marked

the fall of

for ' the science of reduction and cancellation', and the digits we habitually use are often called the Arabic

no a Ion. ese survrva s remm us t at mat ematica

. knowledge w~s m~diated to western Europe through the

said that the Arabs were in no sense the ori inators

of either algebra or the number notation. The Arabs rendered homage to mathematics; they valued the

. .. .

•

They proved apt scholars; and soon they were indus-

triously translating into Arabic such valuable old manu-

showed their skill, but they lacked the originality and enius of Greece and India. Great tracts of Dio hantine

algebra and of geometry left them quite unmoved. For long .centur!es they were the safe custodians of

northern Italy and the nations beyond the Alps began to feel their wakening strength. Heart and mind alike

. . ..

mediaeval Europe. Italy led the way; France, Scotland, Germany and England were soon to follow. The

. .

,

who picked up the threads where Diophantus left them. Ferro discovered a solution to the cubic e uation

x+mx=n;

and, as this solved a problem that had baffled the Greeks, it was a remarkable achievement.

in office, except for a few years' interval at Venice, till his death in the year 1526. In those days mathematical

ISCOVerIes were treasure as amily secrets, only to be di~ulged ~o a few intimate disciples. So f?r thirty years

,

came to Ii ht owin to a scientific dis ute. Such

wranglings were very fashionable: they were the jousts and tournaments of the intellectual world, and mathe-

. .

, ,

Some protagonists preferred to spar with slighter blades -only drawing their mi htiest swords as a last resort.

mong them were ~arta~lia a~d. Cardan, .both very

, n mg WI ClplO as ea lng gures

in this drama of the Cubic Equation. Scipio himself was dra ed rather unwillin 1 into the Ira ..

relished it.

NICCOLO FONTANA (1500-1557) received the nickname

.

head, which permanently affected his speech. This had occurred. in. the J:>utchery that followed the capture

ability. He emulated Ferro by solving a new type or cubic equ!1~ion, x3 + mx2 = n; and when he heard

e origma pro em,

, . ..

what frequently happens,-the mere knowledge that a certain step had been taken bein inducement

enoug or another to take the same step. Tartaglia was the first to apply mathematics to military problems in artillery.

NAPIER

57

PLER

"

GIROLAMO CARDAN (1501-1576 was a turbulent man of

man mg ma ema ica all y. 1 S ran e ve a 1

he was astrologer and philosopher, gambler and algebraist h sician et father and defender of a murderer

heretic yet receiver of a pension from the Pope. He occupied the Chair of Mathematics at Milan and also

ment of his pupil Ferrari, who was the first to solve a quartic equation. Yet Cardan combined piracy with a

opened up the general theory of the cubic and quartic e uations, b discussin how man roots an e uation

may have. He surmised the need not only for negative but for co~plex (or imaginary) numbers to e~ect com-

relations between the roots.

By these mathematical achievements, so variously conducte~, Italy made a substantial a~vance. It was

,

solution of the equation

e rna er a procee e s ep y s ep 0 to the quadratic, the cubic and the quartic equation. Naturall the uestion of the uintic and hi her e ue-

tions arose, but centuries passed before further light was thrown upon them. About a hundred years ago a young Scandinavian mathematician named Abel found

out the truth about these equations. They proved to

. . .

Italians had used Card an it would s m had un-

wittingly brought the algebraic theory- of equations to a violent full stop !

N ow what was going on at this time elsewhere in Euro e 1 Somethin ver si nificant in German and

a steady preparation for the new learning in France,

an ers an ng an. on emporary Wl ClplO

Ferro were three German pioneers, DURER, STIFEL and

.. . ...... .

a considerable writer on algebra; and Copernicus revolutionized astronomy by postulating that the Earth

when certain old- and silver-smiths tried to cheat him,

and he wished to check their transactions.

Half a century later another branch of mathematics

.. ..

,

work on Statics and Hydrostatics. He was born at Bruges in 1548, and lived in the Low Countries. Then

,u.UI.L.L.U. '_''-',

scanty and ill-conceived system which had come down from the time of Aristotle. Galileo showed the im ort-

ance of experimental evidence as an essential prelude to a theoretical account of moving objects. This was

. . .. .

Galileo considerably enlarged the possible applications of ~athematics. In such ~~plications it ,:as ~o lon~er

c 0 a e 1 s 0 er es

merely by sitting in his study or by taking a walk. He had to face stubborn facts, often very baffling to common

sense, but always the outcoI_lle of syste~atic experi~entB.

dynamics for himself by dropping pebbles from a leaning tower at Pisa, Kepler took, for the basis of his astro-

.. ..

...... v ...... .."

made by Tycho Brahe, of whom more anon.

v ........ .L~ ......

produced VIETA, and Scotland NAPIER. The work of these two reat men reminds us how dee was the

influence of Ancient Greece upon the leaders of this mathematical Renaissance. Allusion ~as. alrea~y been

notate

ing problems that had baffled the Greeks, and he made excellent progress. ~e s~owed, for example, that the

,

3+ 1_. Vieta was also the first to make ex licit use of

that wonderful principle of duality, or reciprocation, ~hich was hinted at by Pappus. . We ha~ an instance

importance of a polar triangle, obtained from a spherical triangle ABC. He drew three great circular arcs whose

po es were ~espectlvely A, B, C; and then he formed

o e ar. 0

two triangles jointly turned out to be easier than that of the ori inal trian Ie b itself.

Perhaps the most remarkable of all these eminent mathematicians was JOHN NAPIER, Baron of Merchiston,

who discovered the logarithm. This achievement broke

wonderful labour-saving device for arithmetical computation, but it also su ested several leadin .. les

in higher analysis. John Napier was born i?- 1550 .and died in 1617: he

well, first reformed Bishop of Orkney, who assisted at the marriage of his notorious kinsman, th: Earl of

,

crowned the infant King James VI. Scotland was a countr where barbarous hos italit huntin the

military art and keen religious controversy occupied

e nne an a en Ion 0 apIer s con emporanes : a

couJ?-try of b~ronialleaders whose k~owledge of arith-

of their mail-clad hands. I t was a strange place for the nurture of this fair spirit who seemed to belong to

,

of St. Andrews, where he matriculated in 'the triumphant college of St. Salvator'. In those days St.

rews was no orne 0 quiet aca emio stu ies : accordingly the Bishop, who always took a kindly interest

. . , . ,

he wrote to John's father, 'to send our son Jhone to

the schuyllis; oyer to France or Flanderis; for he can leyr na guid at harne, nor get na proffeit in this maist

, . ..

,

able that he soon returned to Merchiston, his home near Edinburgh, where he was to spend so many years of

in both arithmetic and theology. The preface to his Plain Discover 0 the Whole Revelation 0 St. John

which was published in 1593, contains a reference to his ' tender yeares and barneage in Sanct Androis' where he first was led to devote his talents to the study of

the Apocalypse. His book is full of profound but, it

. . . . .

e

for with his intellectual ifts he combined a fertile

nimbleness in making machines. His constant efforts to fashion easier modes of arithmetical calculation led

was able to kill all cattle within the radius of a mile. N a ier horrified refused to develo this terrif

invention, and it was forgotten.

During his sojou~n abroad he ~agerly studied the

arithmetic and in particular over the principle which underlies the number notation. He was interested in

rec omng no on y, as IS cus omary, In ens, u also in twos. If the number eleven is written 11, the notation indicates one ten and one. In the common

scale of ten each number is denoted by so many ones,

so many tens, so many un re s, an so on. ut Napier als? saw the va~ue of a binary scale-in which

he speaks with interest of the fact that any number of p~unds can be weighed by loading th~ other scale pan

. , .,

When Napier returned to Scotland he wrote down his thoughts on arithmetic and algebra, and many of

his writings remain. T ey are very systematic, sowing a curious mixture of theory and practice: the main business is the theory, but now and then comes an

illustration that 'would please the mechanicians more

.. , .

I II III 1111 V

• • •

upon this notation as upon a new plaything. He saw in the above parallel series of nu~bers the ~atching

gressions as growing continuously from term to term. The above table then became to him a sort of slow

kinematograph record, implying t at t lngs are appening between ~he recor~ed terms. By ,th~year 1590,. or

,

whic re laces multi lication b addition in arithmetic: '

and his treatment of the matter shows intimate knowledge of, the corresp.ondence between ~rithmetical and

practical benefit of logarithms in astronomy and trigonometr that he deliberatel turned aside from his

speculations in algeb!a, and quiet~J: set himself the life-

ong as 0 pro ucmg e requisl e a en y-

five years later they were published.

f re the tables a eared the created a stir

abroad. There dwelt on an island of Denmark the f~mous Tycho Bra~e, who reigned in great ~omp over.

a beneficen t monarch, King Frederick II, for the sole purpose of studying astronomy .. Here prolonged gazings

an muc accura e s ar cnromc lng procee e ; u e stars in their courses were getting too much for Tycho. Like a voice from another world word came of a portentous

arithmetical discovery in Scotland, the terra inc?gn~ta.

,

were completed. Napier, in fact, was slow but sure. e Nothin " said he, 'is perfect at birth. I await the

judgment and criticism of the earned on tIS, e ore unadvisedly publishing the others and exposing them to

. .,

in 1614 and immediatel attracted the attention of

mathematicians in England and on the Continentnota?ly BRIGG~ and ~EPLER. The friendship between

,

be cut short: for in 1617, worn out by his incessant toil N a ier died. One of his last writin s records how

compu a Ion 0 e new canon 0 0 ers s 1 e In IS kind of work, more particularly to that very learned

. n nr Bri ublic Pr f ssor

of Geometry in London '.

A picturesque accou?~ of their. :fir~t meeting ha~ been

'he could have no quietness in himself, until he had seen that noble erson whose onl invention the were.... Mr. Bri s

appoints a certain day when to meet in Edinburgh; but failing thereof, Merchiston was fearful he would not come. It happened one day as John Marr and the Lord Napier were speaking of

rIggs : ere s on, riggs WI

i n

John Marr hasted down and it proved to be Mr. Briggs, to his great contentment. He brings Mr. Briggs up into My Lord's chamber, where almost one uarter of an hour was sent, each

beholding other with admiration before one word was spoken: at last Mr. Briggs began. "My Lord, I have undertaken this long journey purposely to see your person, and to know by what

Lord, being by you found out, I wonder no body else found it out before, when now being known it appears so easy." ,

Exactly: and perhaps this was the highest praise. It is pleasant to record the excellent harmony existing between Napier, Briggs and Kepler. Kepler the same

year discovered his third great planetary canon which

.. . . .

as a

language it can be explained somewhat as follows. A

point G may be conceived as describing a straight line TS with diminishing speed, slowing towards its destin a-

. .. .

T d 5

G G (geometrical !y )

s .

C l

a a )0 (arith m eticaJ Jy)

FIG. 12. ,

This motion Napier called decreasing geometrically. Alongside this, and u on a arallel line bi, a oint a

moves off uniformly from its starting position b. This

. ....

vn. reas~ng an me tea y. e race e-

tween the moving points G and a is supposed to begin at T and b both startin off at the same s

then at any subsequent instant the places reached by G and a are recorded. When G has reached d let a

measuring dS. In short, the distance a has gone is the lo~ar~thm ?f th~ distal!-ce G has to go.

up

basis. As this was done before either the theory of indices or the differential calculus had been invented,

1 was a won er u per ormance.

~apier was also a ge~meter o~ some _imagination. He

spherical triangle as part of a fivefold figure, reminiscent of the Pythagorean. symbol.

logarithms to be invented, and it is scarcely surprising that another should also have discovered them. This

................. vv ,

published his results in 1620. Great credit must also be iven to Bri s for the ra id ro ress he made in

fashioning logarithmic tables of all kinds. None but an expert mathematician of c~nsiderable originality

of ancient and mediaeval lore which included, in one comprehensive grasp, the finest Greek-geometry and ~he

his student days at Tubingen whence at the age of twenty-two he migrated to Gratz in Austria, where he

was appointe ro essor. ere e Imprudent y married a wealthy widow-a step which brought him no happiness. Within three years of his appointment he became

famous through the publication of .his Mysterium, a

as he corresponded with the great Tycho Brahe at Uraniburg, who held even kings spellbound by his dis-

coveries. en In course 0 bime ra e ost roya

favour and began to wander, he accepted a post at the

Ke ler who also was rather unsettled to become his

assistant. This arrangement was made in 1599 at the inst~gation of Rudolph II, a taciturn monarch much

,

logical adepts would bring distinction to his kingdom. In this he was disappointed: for collaboration was not

a success etween these two strong personalities, with

... . . .

r n p rIngIng. e e experience

was good for Kepler, especially as he also came under the influence of Galileo. It hel ed to stabilize his wa -

ward genius. When Tycho died in 1601, Kepler succeeded him as astronomer; but his career was dogged

. . . .

cessful, although he acted with the greatest deliberation: for he carefully analysed and weighed the virtues and

. .

ep er rimme over WIt new Ideas. Possessed with a feeling for number and music, and imbued through,

. .

for the underlying harmony in the cosmos. Temperamentally he was as ready to listen as to look for a clue

cant results than sound. So he brought all his genius to bear on the roblem of the starr universe: and he

reamt of a harmony in arithmetic, geometry and music that would solve its deepest mysteries. Eventually he was able to disclose his great laws of planetary motion,

'two in 1609, and the third and finest in the Harmonices

,

mathematical science, are as follows: 1. The orbit of each lanet is an elli se, with the

sun at a focus.

2. The line joining the planet to the sun sweeps out

. .

.

The s uare of the eriod of the lanet is ro or-

tional to the cube of its mean distance from the sun. The period in the case of the earth is, of course, a

. . ,

.

twice as far from the sun would take nearly three years to erform its orbit since the cube of two is onl a

little less than the square of three. This first law itself

ma e a pro oun c ange In t e scienti c out 00 upon n~tUIe. From ancient tim~s until the, days of C.oper-

,

expectedly become the centre of a practical natural philosophy. In reaching this s ectacular result Ke ler

inevita y pointe out details in the abstract theory that Apollonius had some~ow missed-such ~s the importance

,

for a arabola. Then b a shrewd combination of h'

new ideas with the original conical properties, Kepler be~an to ~ee ellipses, parabolas, hyperbolas, circles, and

To Kepler, starlight, radiating from points unnumbered leagues away, su ested that in eometr arallellines

ave a common point a~ infini~y. Kepler therefore not

n ou some mg 0 In eres e as ronomer ;

he made essential progress in geometry. An enthusiastic

eometer once lamente tha ..

for mathematics by his interest in astronomy!

The second law of Kepler is remarkable as an early example of the infinitesimal calculus. It belongs to the

same order of mathematics as the definition that Napier

. .

this calculus as a formal branch of mathematics still

lay hidden in the future. Yet Kepler made further important contributions by his accurate methods of

.. . . .

His interest in these matters arose partly through reading the ancient work of Archimedes and artl throu h

a .wish to improve on the current method of measuring

WIne cas s. ep er recor e IS resu s In a CurIOUS document, which incidentally contained an ingenious

subtraction as well as addition is involved. Kepler used symbols analogous to I, V, X, L, but instead of the

, ,

any whole number very economically; for instance,

As an algebraist he also touched upon the theory of

" .

numbers. The third of his planetary laws, which followed ~en y~ars after the other two, was no easy flight

Something may be quoted of the contents in the Harmonices Mundi which enshrines this great planetary

t IS typica 0 t e wor 0 this extraor Inary

. ~

of musical intervals, and their relations to the distances between the lanets and the sun: he discusses the si -

nificance of the five Platonic regular solids for interpl~netary sp.ace: he elaborates the properties of the

progressions in civil life, drawing his illustrations from the dress of Cyrus as a small boy, and the equity of

. . .

KEPLER

69

Venus a monotone, the Earth (in the sol-fa notation)

an opportunity for a Latin pun-' in hoc nostro domici 10 miseriam et famem obtinere '. The italics are his, and

. ..

Latin. The Bong of Mercury, in his arpeggio-like orbit, is

for the comets, surely they must be live things, darting about with will and ur ose 'like fishes in the sea' !

This frisky skirl of Mercury amid the sober hummings of the other planets, is no idle fancy: it duly records a

. ..

,

li tic and less lik a ircle than that of an other

planet. It was this very peculiarity of Mercury which provided. Einstein ~i~h one of his clues leading to the

•

a Field; and it is convertible (like a windmill) to all quarters at pleasure; capable of not much more than

, ,

and a half in the diameter to which he applies a long perspective Trunk, with the convex glass fitted to the said

ole, an t e concave ta en out at t e ot er en •.. An ingenious person, truly, if there ever was one

,. .

with perspective glasses, while the Thirty-Years War blazes out, is welcome as a date."

CHAPTER VI

TEMPORARIES

HITHERTO the mathematicians of outstanding ability, whose names have survived, have been

. . .

that it is quite impossible in a short survey to do justice t? .all. In France alone there were as many mathema-

icians 0 genius as urope a pro uce unng e

preceding millennium. Three names will therefore be

.

and Pascal from amon the French, and Newton from

among the English. In this heroic age that followed the performances of Napier and Kepler, mathematics

• 1 •

~-~.- ,

pioneers among its philosophers, like the Greek philoso hers of old, were ex ert mathematicians. The were

Descartes and Leibniz.

DESCART~S was born of Br~ton parents n~ar Tours in

despaired of his life. After receiving the traditional scholastic education of mathematics, physics, logic,

............. vu, e a

pupil, he declared that he had derived no other benefit from his studies than the conviction of his utter ignorance

70

DESCARTES AND PASCAL

71

and rofound contem t for the systems of philosophy

then in vogue.

, And this is why, as Boon ~B my age permitted me to quit

r , , ,

and resolving to seek no other science than that which I could find in lll:yself or else in the. great boo.k of ~he world, I employed

, ,

he arm sometimes remainin in

solitude. At the age of three and twenty, when residing in hi~ winter ql!arters at Neuberg ?n t~e Da~ube, he

on e Thereupon he began his travels, and ten years later retired to Holland to arran e his thou hts into a con-

sidered whole. In 1638 he published his Discourse on

. .

known throughout Europe; Princes sought him; and it ~as only the o~tbreak of the civil war in Engl~nd

,

the invitation of Queen Christina, arriving at Stockholm in 1649, where it was hoped that he would found an

ca emy 0 ciences, uc a rep ica 0 a orne

School in Athens already existed in But his

shortl after his arrival he died.

The work of Descartes changed the face of mathemat~cs: it gave. geomet:y a univers~l~ty hit~erto un-

,

the differential calculus the inevitable discovery of Newton and Leibniz. For Descartes founded analytical geometry, and by so doing provided mathematicians with

" .

Descartes was led to his .analytical geometry ~Y

cedure have already been given on p. 14 and elsewhere. Those examples were stated in alge?~aic formulae in .order

o convey e sense 0 e proposl Ions more rea I y 0

the reader. Strictly speaking, the! were an anachronism c n

quattuor lineas, disclosed by Pappus. It wil be reca e that a point moves so that the product of its oblique

.. ... .... ..

of its distances from certain others. Descartes took a step that from one

enlisted the fact that _, lane geometry is

two-dimensional. So he. ex~ressed every-

in terms of two

variable lengths, :v and y, togethe~ 'Yith

FIG. 13. This at once gave an al ebraic state-

ment for the results of Pappus: it put them into a form

now ypI e y x, y = ,an equa Ion were x an y alone are variable. The fundamental importance of this he further conse uence that such an e ua-

tion can be looked on as the definition of y in terms of x. It defined y as a fu~ction of ~: it did geometric-

the method of Archimedes for discussing the area of a curve, using an abscissa ON and an ordinate NP: in

t e no a Ion 0 escar es ecame x an , y. But, besides this, it linked the wealth of Apollonian geometry with what Archimedes had found; by forging

this link Descartes rendered his most valuable service

,

cause he took considerable pains to indicate its significance, he was not alone in the discovery. Among

o ers to reac t e same cone usion was ERMATanother of the great French mathematicians, a man of

. . . .

Fermat had a wa of hidin his discoveries.

Before indicating some of the principal consequences of this new ~etho~ in geometry, ther~ are other aspects

,

a step which completed the improvements in notation ori inatin with Dio hantus. The fruitful su estion

of negative and fractional indices followed soon afterwards: it WM due to WALLIS, one of our first gr~at

between two classes of curves, geometrical and mechanical, or, as LEIBNIZ preferred to call them,algebraic and

.

a 1 ea ,

the spiral of Archimedes, whose Cartesian equation has no finite de ree.

Apollonius had solved the problem of finding the

problem in general: he devised a method

FIG. 14.

rom a given a line meets the Q, and is often

o e ermmuig e s

point P to a given curve. curve at right angles in the

6

called the normal at Q to the curve. Descartes took

curve. The point where it reached the curve gave him Q, the required ~oot of t~e norm~l. His way of getting

e proper ra IUS was In eres lng; I epen e on

solving a certain equation, two of whose roots were

FIG. 15.

familiarity with analytical geometry,

,

general principle. Had Descartes been so inclined he could also have used his method for findin a tan ent

to a curve, i.e. a line PQ touching a given curve at a point Q (Fig. 15). This is one of the first problems

. . .

solutions was found

by Fermat and not by Descartes.

covered how to draw the tan ent at certain

points of a. curve,

name y a pOln s which were, so to s ak at a crest or in 0

x

the trough of a wave of the curve. They

FIG. 16.

doing, Fermat had followed up a fertile hint, which Kepler had let fall, concerning the behaviour of a vari-

. .. . .

a e quan I y near I s maximum or mimmum va ues.

An interesting curve, still called the Cartesian oval, was discovered by Descartes, and has led to far-reaching

research in ge?metry and analysis. It was found in an

a lens of this shape would successfully focus a wideangled pencil of light, if it issued from a certain par-

ticu ar position, teens wou e ot erwise use esse But it has a physical, besides a mathematical, interest:

. . .. ....

with that which Hero of Alexandria first noticed in the

case of plane mirrors. It is the principle of Least Action, whic~ was ultimately exhibited in a general form by

All this mathematical work was but part of a comprehensive philosophical programme culminating in a

of comets as live fishes darting through a celestial sea, Descartes ima ined the lanets as obiects swirlin in

vast eddies. It remained for Newton not only to point out that this theory was incompatible with Kepler's

,

selfish, and offered a great contrast to his younger contemporary, the mathematician and philosopher, Blaise

machine: and' the clatter of the co-ordinate mill', as Stud has remarked, ma be too insistent. The heno-

menal success of this machine in the hands of Newton, Euler and Lagrange almost completely diverted thought from pure geometry. The great geometrical work in

France, contemporary with that of Descartes, actually

. . . .

.

the early French geometers were PASCAL and DESARGUES, and their work was the natural continuation of what

ep er a egun In pro]ec rve geome ry. esargues,

who was an engineer and architect residing at Lyons,

. . .

eo metrical settin. He showed for exam Ie with

grand economy, how to cut conics of different shapes from a singl~ co?e, and that a right circular cone. He

,

of the nineteenth century, who speaks of Desargues as an artist, but goes on

universality un c 0 mmon in tha t of an

artist. Desargues had the distinction of find-

B

three points which are in line (Fig. 17). The theorem is remarkable because it is easier to prove if t~e

geometry-but not invariably. The perspective outline drawing of a cube on a sheet of paper is a more

complicated figure than the actual out me 0 t e so 1 cube. Desargues began the method of disentangling plane figures by raising them out of the fiat into three

D

77

dimensions. This is a choice method that has onl

lately borne its finest fruit i~ the many-dimensional

geome roe r an e a a

The work of Desargues is intimately linked with that of Pascal. Even in the rand centur which roduced

Descartes, Fermat and Desargues, the fourth great French mathematician, BLAISE PASCAL, stands out for the

.. . .

19th June, 1623; and was educated with the greatest care by his fat~er, who . was a lawyer and ~resident ?f

e our 0 I s. S I was oug unwise 0 eg1n

mathematics too early, the boy was put to the study of Ian ua es. But his mathematical curiosit was aroused

when he was twelve years old, on being told in reply

to a question as to t e nature 0 geometry, t at It consisted in constructing exact figures and in studying

angles of a triangle are together equal to two right angles. When his father knew of it, he was so overcome with

wonder that he wept for JOY, repente ,an gave im a copy of Euclid. This, ~agerly read ~nd soon :na~tered,

on conic sections, which astounded Descartes. Everything turned on a miracle of a theorem that Pascal

, , .,.

,

ledged to be the greatest theorem of mediaeval geometry. It states that, if a hexagon is inscribed in a conic, the

three points of intersection of pairs of opposite Sl es

. .. .. .

a ways ie on s raIg In.

he is said to have deduced hundreds of corollaries, the whole bein infused with the method of roi ection. The

theorem has had a remarkably rich history, after the two hundred year eclipse, culminating in the enchantments of Segre when he presents it as a cubic locus in

space of four dimensions, transfigured yet in its simplest

the society in Paris of Ro berval, Mersenne and other mathematicians of renown whose re ular weeki meet-

ings finally grew into the French Academy. Such a stimulating atmosphere bore fruit after ~he family re-

demned for heresy, Pascal undertook a vigorous defence in A Letter written to a Provincial, full of scathing irony

against t e J esuits. en tel ea came to rm to write an Apologia of the Christian Faith, but in 1658

.

age of thirty-nine. The notes in which he jotted down his thoughts in preparation for this great project, have

. .. , .

classic.

In Pascal the simplest faith graced the holder of the

wa of God. So when in the years of his retirement, as he . la awake suflerin certain mathematical thou hts came

to him and the pain disappeared, he took this as a divine token to proceed. The problem which occurred to him concerned a curve called the cycloid, and in eight days

DESCARTES AND PASCAL

79

he found out its chief properties by a brilliant geometrical ar ument. This curve rna be described b the rotation

of a wheel: if the axle is fixed, like that of a flywheel

In a mac me, a point on t e rim escrr es a eire e ; ut if ,the wheel r~lls alon~ a line, a point on the rim des-

It arose out of a game of chance that had formed a topic of discussion be~ween Pascal and ~ermat. F~o.m

emerged; this in turn Pascal looked upon as a problem in arrangements or combinations of given things and

in counting those arrangements. With c aracteristio

. .. ..

msig e 1 po e eV.LL<N.LU.O~

the subject. It was the Arithmetic Triangle, a device alread used b Na ier for another ur ose and datin

from still earlier times.

1 1 1 1 1 1 Certain numbers are written down

1 4 10 1 5

any stage be enlarged by affixing further numbers, one each at the

the table. The diagram exhibits a 1 in the top lefthand corner followed by five parallel diagonals, the fifth

80 THE ~GREAT MATHEMATICIANS

not been filled in, would consist of 1, 6, 15, 20, 15, 6, 1, according to the addition rule. .Inst~ad of locating an

(n + l)(n + 2)(n + 3) ... (m}/1.2.3 .... (m - n).

He also utilized th di onal

binomial expansion of (a + b)m. For example,

(a + b)5 = as + 5a4b + lOa3b2 + lOa2b3 + 5ab4 + b5• Numbers and quantities are not always so important

or ) eir SIze or u as or err pa ems an arrangements. What Pascal did was to bring this notion of

.

mathematics. By so doing he created higher algebra and prepared the way for Bernoulli, Euler and Cayley. 'Let

. . ,.

,

in his Pen sees ; 'the arrangement of the subject is new. When we play tennis, we both play with the same ball,

,

algebra, is most famous for his theory of numbers. In the. mar in of a co of Dio hantus he made a habit

of scribbling notes of ideas which came into his mind as he read. These notes are unique in their interest

. .

celebrated note, which is often called Fermat's Last Theorem, has baffled the wit of all his analytical succes-

so s . was right or wrong. The theorem asserts that it is impossible to find whole numbers », y, z which satisfy the equation

wealth of new methods and new ideas about number; valuable rizes have been offered for a solution' but

to-day its quiet challenge still remains unanswered.

Great .thing~ were also going on in Italy and Eng-

the length of its arc.

Another ver fine ieee of work was done in 1695

by PIETRO l\iENGOLI, who gave an entirely new setting to the celebrated logarithm, by showing that it was

. . .. . ..

and rigorous enough to satisfy the strictest arithmetical disci~le of W eierstra~s.

to a beautiful result that connected the area between a hyperbola and its asymptote with the logarithm. It was found in 1647 by GREGOIRE DE SAINT VINCENT, of

Flanders: but several others turned their attention to

, "

Brouncker, Wallis, James Gregory, Newton and Leibniz.

This Mercator was not the maker of geographical maps:

he was a mathematician who had lived in the prevIous centu:y.)

ttained A start was made with the eometrical ro-

gression whose sum is 1/(1 - x); namely,

1

I-x and a curve was determined whose co-ordinate equation

. ..

course that Archimedes had taken for the case of the parabola. There was no difficulty in findin~.a requisite

an 0 a pIer s orlglna e

It led to the result

log (1 - z) = - x - - - - - - - •

. . ,

which is called the logarithmic series. As may be seen, it is a union of the eometrical and harmonical

.

progression.

Among the names which have just been given we find

. .

,

r u ma h maticians of the first rank and

in Gregory Scotland possessed a worthy successor to Napier. It is interesting to give, as typical specimens

,

. lowing formulae, which may be compared and contrasted with the 10 arithmic series:

1t 1

2 + 52

----

2 + f ••

DESCARTE& AND PASCAL 11: 2x4x4x6x6x8x.

83

4 3x3x5x5x7x7x.

'J'(,_l 1 1 1 +

4 - - -a- + ~ - 'f 'o_ 0 0

The first is due to LORD BROUNCKER, an Irish peer; the second to WALLIS, who was educated in Cambrid e

and later became Savilian Professor of Mathematics in

,

can be carried farther; in fact, they each have something in common with the ladder-arithmetic of Athens

p. ey ave IS In common a so WI ie as

formula for 11: (p. 59); but they improve on it, not

. .. .

-each step slightly overshooting the mark. This is not always d?ne when such sequences are used, as in the

'J'(,

- = t of 3·1415926 0 • 0 = ·785398 . . OJ

W lC approxlma es rom one 81 e on y, 1 e e pu s of a timid golfer who never gives the ball a chance, or like he race of Achilles and the tortoise. Such series

need careful handling, as Zeno had broadly hinted; and G:regory (by framing the notions. of co;:tvergency

In the last of these four formulae for 4' t e gits occur at random, and for this reason the statement is

of little interest except to the practical mathematician. It is far otherwise with the other three: the arrangement of their parts has the inevitability of the highest

works of art. It would be a pleasure to hear Pythagoras

county of Aberdeen. It had not been distinguished intellectuall until John Gre or of Drumoak married

Janet Anderson, herself a mathematician and a relative of the Professor of Mathematics in Paris. Many of their

. .

or h sicians. Chief amon them all was their son

James, who learnt mathematics from his mother. Unhappily, like Pascal, he died in his prime; but he lived

.. . .

several years in Italy he occupied the Chair of Mathematics in St. Andrews for six ears followed bone

y~ar at Edinburgh. Short! y before his death he became

In .

Gregory was a great mathematical analyst, and many

of is incidental re ults are tri in Fr

of the logarithm he discovered the binomial theorem, generally and rightly attributed to Newton, who had

. . .

discovery, as were also their invention of the reflecting telescope, and their attainments in the differential

an integra ca cu us. e wor 0 regory opene

out a broad region of higher trigonometry, algebra and

. .. ..

theorems but for its eneral aim, which was to rove

that no finite algebraic formula could be found to express. the functions tha t arise in trigo~ometry and

,

were pursuing a vainer phantom than those who endeavour with rule and compass to trisect an angle. His

project was 0 ty, even 1 It mevita y ai e : 1 was

. . . . .

pure mathematics which were only satisfactorily resolved durin the nineteenth centur .

If it is asked what is the peculiar national contribu- . tion made by our country to mathematics, the reply is : the mathematics of interpolation-the mathematical art

of reading between the lines. As an illustration let us

. . , . .

of an Admiralt chart. The num-

bers indicate the depth in fathoms at various points on the surface of the sea. Such a chart with these par-

o 0 •

u trending downwards south-east. not show is the actual de th at ositions intermediate

between the readings. Mathematical interpolation is

concerne WIt ISCOVerIng a ormu a or t e mos pro - able ?e~th consiste~t with t~ese measure~ soundin.gs.

between 1 Napier, Briggs, Wallis, Gregory and Newton, each in his way gave an answer.

From gap to gap

angs up a uge cur am so, Grandly, nor seeks to have it go Foldless and flat against the wall.

BU lemented it with several other alternatives which

have usually been attributed to Stirling, Bessel and Gauss.

CHAPTER VII

ISAA

N the country near Grantham during a great storm,

. ..,

death, a boy might have been seen amusing himself in a curious fashion. Turnin his back to the wind he

took a Jump, whic of course was a long jump. Then

. . . .

e WIn an again 00 a Jump, which was not nearly so long as his first. These distances he carefull measured for this was his wa of

ascertaining the force of the wind. The boy was Isaac Newt~n, and he was .one day to J?e~sure t~e force, if

tend sheep and go regularly to the Grantham market. But as he would read mathematics instead of minding

. . .

IS usmess, 1 was a as agree a e s ou go ac

to school, and "from school to college. At school he lod ed with Mr Clark h .. f'I',·,.nfl'Cl

spent much time, hammering and knocking. In the

room were picture- rames an "pIctures of his own rna - in~, portraits, and ~rawings of birds. and beasts and

clock that was worked by water, and a mill which had a mouse as its miller. The boy made a carriage

he was a very good friend, making tables and chairs for their dolls. His schoolfellows looked u to him as a

S 1 U mec anic. As for his studies, when he first came to school he was somewhat lazy, but a fight that he had one day woke him up, and thereafter he made good

86

progress. This quiet boy had great powers which were

cured a cop of the book, and soon sur rised the tutor

by mastering it. Then followed a book on astrology; but this contained something which puzzled him. It

. .

,

to understand the diagram, he must first understand geometry. So he bought Euclid's Elements, but was

lived to repent). But turning to the work of Descartes he found his match, and b fi htin atientl and

steadily he won the battle.

Af~er taking his degree Isaac Newton still went on

things for himself, until the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics in the University had become so convinced of the

.. ...

,1ncre 1 e as 1 may seem, he gave up to him his professorship. Isaac Barrow, the master of Newton's colle e who thus resi ned was at

no time a man to prefer self-interest before honour. He

was posse sse 0 grea persona courage, an IS repute to have fought with a savage dog in an early morning's

. .

was a ma thema tician of no mean powers; and as a divine he gained a lasting repu~ation ..

, ,

We are not. to suppose that these flashed upon him all at once. They were prepared for by long onderin.

eep ,sal e, t e su ject 0 my inquiry constantly before me, and wait till the first dawning opens gradually, by little and little, into a full and clear light.' Early

colours upon a screen. This discovery was occasioned b the im erfection of the lenses in telescopes as they

were then made. Newton chose to cure the de ect y inventing a reflecti~g .telescope with a mirror to take

,

suffer from this awkwardness of lenses.

It is one of his distinctions, shared with Archimedes and a few other intellectual giants, that h~s own handiwor,k

wa a statue, holding a prism:

- wton with his rism and silent face·

The marble index of a mind for ever

oy In mathematics his most famous discovery was the

.. . he

method of Fluxions: and in astronomy it was the conception and ~laboration of universal gravita~ion. It

and reinforced each other. Already at the age of twentythree, when for parts of the years 1665 and 1666 the

col ege was sent own OWIng to t e P ague, ew on a though~ o~t, in his quiet country hOII;W, the pri.nciples

he had worked at the fluxional calculus. In the space of three years after first reading geometry, he had so

Archimedes to Barrow, that he had fitted their wonderful infinitesimal geometry into a systematic discipline.

ew on gave 0 ana YSIS e same universa i y a

. .

Newton may be said to have fused the points of view ado ted b Na ier and Descartes into a single whole.

Napier thought of points M and N racing a ong para e tracks OX and OY, N moving steadily and M at a variable speed. The co-ordinates of Descartes provide

a chart of the race in the following way: the lines .OX

, ,

by a point P which is simultaneously abreast of the points Nand M. In this way two figures can be drawn,

one tea plerlan an t e ot er t e Larteeian. e figu~es are symbols of .two lines of thought-the kine-

o

M

y

y

o

x

N

FIG. 18.

ha ve drawn such fi ures side b but he certainl

had the two trains of thought. 'I fell by degrees on the method of fluxions,' he remarks; and by fluxions

. .

the speed of M with that of N, he devised the method ~hich the geometrical figure suggests. 'Fluxions' was

this new mathematical method.

,

the great men themselves. It is enough to say that the time was ripe for such a discovery: and both Newton

an t e erman p I osop er were su cient y gi te to effect it. Newton was the first to do so, and only

. .

Leibniz was influenced more by Pascal and Barrow than by Newton: and in turn we owe to Leibniz the record

,. .

,

leading mathematicians and natural philosophers in the countr. Two of the Fellows of this Societ were

Gregory and Newton, who had become friends through their common interest in the reflecting telescope. Be-

. .. . -

with other leading mathematicians and astronomers. Among those who have not already been mentioned in

r n, 00 e, an a eYe

Christopher Wren is now so famous as the builder of

St. Paul's Cathedral that we never hear . . .

fame, though a man of science he was. Hooke, who

was In appearance a puny Itt e man, was a ar student, often working till long after midnight, but caring too

. . .

.

Halley was an astronomer-a very active man, always travelling sbout the world to make some addition to

IS science, very one as heard of Halley's comet,

and to Ralley is due the credit of bringing Newton before the world as the discoverer of gravitation.

91

One da these three friends were talkin earnestl

together: the subject of their conversation was the

.

ir poo eory 0 escar es, W c ey e 0 e

hardly a satisfactory explanation of planetary motion. It did not seem to ive a ro er e lanation of the

focal position of the Sun within the elliptic orbit. Instead of imagining the planets to be propelled by a

. . .

.

they, ' the Sun pulls a planet with such and such a force, how ought the planet to go ~ We want to see clearly

a e pane WI go In an e Ipse. we can see a,

we shall be pretty sure that the Sun does pull the planet

in h ' , , .

on condition of his producing the answer within a certain ~ime. However, nothing more was heard of Hooke's

distance between them, in what sort of a curve ought the lanet to 0 ~ Newton to Halle's astonishment

and delight answered, ' An ellipse.' , How do you know that l' 'Why, I have calculated it.' 'Where's the

. , . .

, ,

he would look for i an n I ared

that Newton had worked all this out long before; and only now in this casual wa y w~ the ~atter .made known

of the supreme achievements of the human mind.

It is' impossible to exaggerate the importance of the book, which at once attracted the keenest attention

•

was not so much the conception that the Sun pulls the

planet, but that the lanet ulls the Sun-and ulls

equally hard! And that the whole Universe is full of falling bodies: and everything pulls everything eIse-

o • 0

,

When Newton's friends had di cu

solar attraction upon a planet, they had correctly surmised the requisite force: it was determined by what

o 0

.

adopted this law of force in his early conjectures, during the Ion vacation of 1666 over twent ears before the

publication of the Principia (1687). That early occasion

is a so e a e 0 w ic e we - nown a pp e s ory may be referred. It is said that the sight of a falling

a le set in motion the tr i .

to his discovery of universal gravitation. But after working ?ut the mathe~atical co~sequences of his theory

.

he became aware of later and more careful calculations of the observations. This time, to his delight, they

e is rna ema ica eory, an so ewton was

ready with his answer, when Halley paid him the memora le vi i

In the Principia Newton demonstrated that, if his

ru e 0 gravitation IS universally granted, it becomes the key to all celestial motions. Newton could not prove

.. . .

,

were known at the time, but very nearly all that have since been discovered help to prove that he was right.

. , ,

refuses to go round the Earth in an exact ellipse, but has all sorts of fanciful little excursions of her own-the

moon was very trying to Isaac Newton.

Newton's great book was written in Latin, and, in order to make it intelligible to current habits of mind,

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