A description of the admirable table of logarithmes

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Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, 1969 - Mathematics - 89 pages
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About the author (1969)

Scottish mathematician and cleric John Napier was born at Merchiston Castle near Edinburgh. After graduating from St. Andrews University, he studied in Paris and traveled throughout Europe. On his return to Scotland, he became a strong supporter of the Reform church in its struggle to eradicate Catholicism from the country. He was appointed to John Knox's General Assembly and wrote Protestant tracts. After the Reform Church's position was ensured, Napier turned his efforts to mathematics. His landmark achievement was his invention of a system of logarithms based on the correspondence of a geometric and arithmetic series of numbers. Napier's method of computing logarithms, published in 1614 in his Mirifici logarithmorum canonis descriptio, gained immediate acceptance. His table of logarithms, which became the basis of a new table of common logarithms in 1624, simplified the complex calculations of trigonometry heretofore required in astronomy and navigation. In 1617, the year of his death, Napier published Rabdologiae; seu Numerationes per Virgulas libri duo, in which he described a system of arithmetic computation involving the use of counting rods (also known as Napier's bones). This system was to have great importance for physical science, making it possible to perform multiplication and division by mechanical means. It is now regarded as an early herald of the slide rule and the modern analog computer.

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