Article ID: CBB001451419

“And John Napier created logarithms...” (2014)

unapi

The Mirifici logarithmorum canonis descriptio which Napier published in 1614 tabulates this `marvellous measure of ratio-numbers' to 7 places, giving the `Napierian' logarithms (we would now say) of the sines of angles from 0 to 90, and in a wealth of worked examples displays how these may be applied to reduce to the equivalent additions and subtractions the lengthy multiplications and divisions necessary in problems of plane and spherical trigonometry. The book had a short-lived heyday: one abruptly ended just ten years later when Henry Briggs brought out his 14-place table of common logarithms (these computed by a different and more powerful method). It is well known that the last places in Napier's table are not to be trusted. And no one after 1624 would dream of constructing logarithms his way (which was not just by computing powers of …). Why then make so much fuss over his discovery if in fact he no more invented our logarithms than Logie Baird the TV cathode-ray tube?

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Authors & Contributors
Craik, Alex D. D.
Enrique González-Velasco
Jannamorelli, Bruno
Alexander Corrigan
Brian Rice
Wardhaugh, Benjamin
Journals
Historia Mathematica
British Society for the History of Mathematics Bulletin
British Journal for the History of Mathematics
Studies in History of Medicine and Science
Revue d'Histoire des Mathématiques
Osmanli Bilimi Arastirmalari: Studies in Ottoman Science
Publishers
Springer
Princeton University Press
National Museums of Scotland Publishing
Guaraldi
European Mathematical Society
El Colegio de Mexico
Concepts
Mathematics
Logarithms
Mathematicians
Biographies
Astronomy
Tables; catalogs; lists
People
Napier, John
Newton, Isaac
Welwood, William
Zaragoza, José de
Uzdilek, Salih Murad
Spence, William
Time Periods
17th century
16th century
Renaissance
19th century
18th century
Early modern
Places
Scotland
Spain
England
Netherlands
Portugal
Italy
Institutions
Istanbul Teknik Universitesi
Università di Roma
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