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Mathematical Treasure: 18th-century Engravings of Mathematical Activities

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University)

This line engraving depicts the French Academy of Sciences and Fine Arts around 1790. It was made by Georg Herth after an earlier work by Gottfried Stein (d. 1790). Note the mathematical activities being carried out by individuals in the engraving.

18th-century engraving of the French Academy of Sciences.

This print is held by the Wellcome Collection, where it has reference number 21390i and is made available via a Creative Commons License (CC BY 4.0).

The Dutch artist Reinier Vinkeles (1741–1816) made this pen and ink drawing in 1776. The young gentleman is benefiting from mathematics instruction given by his private tutor, so it is aptly titled The Mathematics Lesson. Printers would have used the drawing to make an engraving they would publish as a book illustration.

The Mathematics Lesson by Reinier Vinkeles, 1776.

This drawing is held by the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery, where it has accession number 1946-1-3.

Index of Mathematical Treasures

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University), "Mathematical Treasure: 18th-century Engravings of Mathematical Activities," Convergence (August 2021)