Case Studies for the Seventeenth, Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries
Edited By Benjamin Wardhaugh
Introduction [O]ur history will embrace all mathematicians […]. And not, moreover, in just a historical fashion – what age they lived in, what manner of life they led, what coun- try they inhabited – but rather mathematically: what they wrote in what field, how well they wrote it and how useful it is for teaching beginners. Since I intended to say this, I could not, without fault, omit a discussion of the whole of mathematics and each of its branches.1 Mathematical histories have been written in Europe since the sixteenth century, yet on the whole there has been relatively little ref lection on the trajectory which the history of mathematics itself has taken over time. Nor has sustained attention often been given to the historiography of a subject which by its nature involves methodological choices and dilemmas dif ferent from those of other kinds of history.2 Henry Savile’s demanding programme for the study of the history of mathematics, set out during his 1570 lectures on Ptolemy at Oxford and quoted above, illustrates the magnitude of the task facing the historian of mathematics. It also illustrates the tendency of mathematical histories to be dependent on particular understandings of the nature of mathematics, and of course to respond to the needs of particular audiences. 1 Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Savile 29, fols 17r–17v, quoted and translated in Robert Goulding, Defending Hypatia: Ramus, Savile, and the Renaissance rediscovery of mathematical history (Dordrecht: Springer, 2010), 97. 2 Notable exceptions are Joseph W. Dauben and Christoph...
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