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How to Read Historical Mathematics

by Benjamin Wardhaugh Princeton University Press
Pub Date:
Hbk 136 pages
AU$73.00 NZ$74.78
Product Status: In Stock Now
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Writings by early mathematicians feature language and notations that are quite different from what we're familiar with today. Sourcebooks on the history of mathematics provide some guidance, but what has been lacking is a guide tailored to the needs of readers approaching these writings for the first time. How to Read Historical Mathematics fills this gap by introducing readers to the analytical questions historians ask when deciphering historical texts.

Sampling actual writings from the history of mathematics, Benjamin Wardhaugh reveals the questions that will unlock the meaning and significance of a given text--Who wrote it, why, and for whom? What was its author's intended meaning? How did it reach its present form? Is it original or a translation? Why is it important today? Wardhaugh teaches readers to think about what the original text might have looked like, to consider where and when it was written, and to formulate questions of their own. Readers pick up new skills with each chapter, and gain the confidence and analytical sophistication needed to tackle virtually any text in the history of mathematics.

Introduces readers to the methods of textual analysis used by historians
Uses actual source material as examples
Features boxed summaries, discussion questions, and suggestions for further reading
Supplements all major sourcebooks in mathematics history
Designed for easy reference
Ideal for students and teachers

Preface vii

Chapter 1: What Does It Say? 1

Chapter 2: How Was It Written? 21

Chapter 3: Paper and Ink 49

Chapter 4: Readers 73

Chapter 5: What to Read, and Why 92

Bibliography 111

Index 115

How to Read Historical Mathematics is definitely a significant contribution. There is nothing similar available. It will be a very important resource in any course that makes use of original sources in mathematics and to anyone else who wants to read seriously in the history of mathematics. Victor J. Katz, editor of 'The Mathematics of Egypt, Mesopotamia, China, India, and Islam' Wardhaugh guides mathematics students through the process of reading primary sources in the history of mathematics and understanding some of the main historiographic issues this study involves. This concise handbook is a very significant and, as far as I know, unique companion to the growing corpus of sourcebooks documenting major achievements in mathematics. It explicitly addresses the fundamental questions of why--and more importantly how--one should read primary sources in mathematics history. Kim Plofker, author of 'Mathematics in India'
Benjamin Wardhaugh is a postdoctoral research fellow at All Souls College, University of Oxford. He is the author of 'Music, Experiment, and Mathematics in England, 1653-1705'.