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History of Mathematical Sciences: Portugal and East Asia II: Scientific Practices and the Portuguese Expansion in Asia (1498-1759)

Luís Saraiva, editor
World Scientific
Publication Date: 
Number of Pages: 
[Reviewed by
Fernando Q. Gouvêa
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Between the 16th and the 18th centuries, Portuguese explorers brought European culture to many parts of the world, including East Asia. This cultural interaction led to the transmission of a good deal of European science and mathematics to the East and to the establishment of many (mostly Jesuit) educational institutions. This collection of historical essays aims to explore the history of this interaction.

As the title indicates, History of Mathematical Sciences: Portugal and East Asia II is the second collection of essays on the subject. The first collection was the proceedings of a conference held in Portugal in 1995. It was published in Portugal by Fundação Oriente and unfortunately seems to be rather hard to obtain. This second collection represents the proceedings of a second conference, this one held in Asia at the University of Macao in 1998. Scholars from both Europe and Asia participated in both conferences.

The range of topics is much wider than the modern term "mathematical sciences" might suggest, covering all sorts of aspects of scientific knowledge of the period, from geography to cosmology. A couple of the essays have an even more general scope, dealing with the movement of all sorts of ideas between Europe and the East. Of particular interest to me were the essay on Jesuit mathematical textbooks and the essays that investigated what, if any, influence ran in the other direction, from Asia to Europe. (They do find some.)

Overall, it is historians of science that will find this book most interesting, particularly those whose research focuses on intercultural issues. At $98 for 182 pages, I suspect that only the bigger libraries will want to have a copy.

Fernando Q. Gouvêa is professor of mathematics at Colby College and editor of MAA Reviews.

* Foreword (L Saraiva)
* Macau: An Intercultural Frontier in the Ming Period (L F Barreto)
* Survey and Study of pre-1900 Chinese Maps seen in Europe (X Li)
* Western Knowledge of Geography Reflected in Juan Cobo's Shilu (1593) (D Liu)
* The Continuing Influence of the Portuguese: A New Interpretation of World Geography" (Q Wang)
* Teachers of Mathematics in China: the Jesuits and their Textbooks (1580-1723) (C Jami)
* News from China in Sixteenth Century Europe: the Portuguese Connection (R Loureiro)
* The Indianization of Spain in the 16th Century (J Gil)
* Jesuit Observations and Star-Mappings in Beijing as the Transmission of Scientific Knowledge (K Hashimoto)
* The Compilation of the Lixiang Kaochenghoubian