David Joyce's Website

Jim Kiernan, reviewer

The first website to consult if you are interested in Euclid ’s Elements is the site constructed by David Joyce of Clark University in 1994: http://aleph0.clarku.edu/~djoyce/mathhist/mathhist.html

This website contains a complete English translation of all thirteen books. However, the best feature of the site is the use of Java applets to illustrate many of the diagrams contained in this important work. A student can go to a particular proposition and experience a demonstration of it simply by moving a point in the diagram that illustrates that proposition. Several users have shared their praise for this aspect of the website.

While the Elements is the jewel of this website, David Joyce has attempted to fashion the site into general repository of knowledge on the history of mathematics. There is a link to Hilbert’s 1900 Paris speech on the 23 most important unsolved problems. There are, also, sections on the following topics : regional mathematics, mathematical subjects, resources and chronology. It seems to me that most of what is contained in these sections is unfinished business. There are lists of mathematicians, chronologies, bibliographies and a few maps and timelines. Since the website was last updated in 1998, there  is no current scholarship included after that year. Other than providing outlines and dated bibliographies the remainder of the site is somewhat of a dead end.

However, the feature of David Joyce’s website which is most noticeably lacking is the mathematics. Aside from the section on Euclid and one on Plimpton 322 there are almost no examples of actual mathematics, particularly, in the sections on regional mathematics, i.e, the mathematics of Babylonia, Egypt, Greece, China, India, and the Arab world.  Several of these sub units give links to the MacTutor site previously reviewed in Convergence . After seeing these links over and over again, why wouldn’t someone just go directly to the MacTutor website?

Jim Kiernan,   Brooklyn College