You are here

Mathematical Treasure: Arithmetic and Geometry of Metius

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University)

Adriaan Adriaanszoon (1571-1635), more commonly known as Adrian Metius, was a Dutch geometer, astronomer, surveyor, and instrument maker. He is perhaps best known for his published estimate for the mathematical constant \(\pi\approx{\frac{355}{113}},\) which was actually discovered by his father. His Arithmetica et Geometriae (1626) reflects his applied approach to mathematics. The personages depicted on the title page also reflect his mathematical experiences: war and warfare occupy the highest position; an astronomer/philosopher stands on the left; while a tentative surveyor enters the scene at the right.

Title page of Adrian Metius's 1626 algebra and geometry textbook.

An illustration on page 11 shows that an infinite number of right angles can be inscribed within a semicircle.

Page 11 from Adrian Metius's 1626 textbook.

On page 35 begins a section on practical geometry. It appears this was published as a separate tract in 1625 and added to the new work.

Page 35 of Adrian Metius's 1626 geometry and algebra textbook.

The images above are presented courtesy of the University of Pennsylvania Libraries.

Index to Mathematical Treasures

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University), "Mathematical Treasure: Arithmetic and Geometry of Metius," Convergence (August 2016)