John Napier: Life, Logarithms, and Legacy
By: Julian Havil (author)Hardback
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John Napier (1550-1617) is celebrated today as the man who invented logarithms--an enormous intellectual achievement that would soon lead to the development of their mechanical equivalent in the slide rule: the two would serve humanity as the principal means of calculation until the mid-1970s. Yet, despite Napier's pioneering efforts, his life and work have not attracted detailed modern scrutiny. John Napier is the first contemporary biography to take an in-depth look at the multiple facets of Napier's story: his privileged position as the eighth Laird of Merchiston and the son of influential Scottish landowners; his reputation as a magician who dabbled in alchemy; his interest in agriculture; his involvement with a notorious outlaw; his staunch anti-Catholic beliefs; his interactions with such peers as Henry Briggs, Johannes Kepler, and Tycho Brahe; and, most notably, his estimable mathematical legacy. Julian Havil explores Napier's original development of logarithms, the motivations for his approach, and the reasons behind certain adjustments to them.
Napier's inventive mathematical ideas also include formulas for solving spherical triangles, "Napier's Bones" (a more basic but extremely popular alternative device for calculation), and the use of decimal notation for fractions and binary arithmetic. Havil also considers Napier's study of the Book of Revelation, which led to his prediction of the Apocalypse in his first book, A Plaine Discovery of the Whole Revelation of St. John--the work for which Napier believed he would be most remembered. John Napier assesses one man's life and the lasting influence of his advancements on the mathematical sciences and beyond.
Julian Havil is the author of Gamma: Exploring Euler's Constant, Nonplussed!: Mathematical Proof of Implausible Ideas, Impossible?: Surprising Solutions to Counterintuitive Conundrums, and The Irrationals: A Story of the Numbers You Can't Count On (all Princeton). He is a retired former master at Winchester College, England, where he taught mathematics for more than three decades.
Acknowledgments xv Introduction 1 Chapter One Life and Lineage 8 Chapter Two Revelation and Recognition 35 Chapter Three A New Tool for Calculation 62 Chapter Four Constructing the Canon 96 Chapter Five Analogue and Digital Computers 131 Chapter Six Logistics: The Art of Computing Well 155 Chapter Seven Legacy 179 Epilogue 207 Appendix A Napier's Works 209 Appendix B The Scottish Science Hall of Fame 210 Appendix C Scotland and Conflict 211 Appendix D Scotland and Reformation 216 Appendix E A Stroll Down Memory Lane 220 Appendix F Methods of Multiplying 229 Appendix G Amending Napier's Kinematic Model 232 Appendix H Napier's Inequalities 233 Appendix I Hos Ego Versiculos Feci 236 Appendix J The Rule of Three 238 Appendix K Mercator's Map 250 Appendix L The Swiss Claimant 264 References 270 Index 275
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- ID: 9780691155708
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