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Mathematical Treasure: Christian Wolff's Mathematical Lexicon

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University)

Writing both as a mathematician and philosopher, Christian Wolff in his Mathematical Lexicon of 1716 attempted to describe the mathematical knowledge of his time by defining its terms and relating their history. Here is the title page of this ambitious work:

Title page of Wolff's Mathematical Lexicon.

This rather fanciful frontispiece depicts an aloof goddess of mathematics, attended by two assistants. The goddess wears a winged hat/crown. One assistant seems to offer assets of keys, perhaps indicating mathematics as “keys to wisdom.” The other assistant holds an astrolabe. The floor on the foreground is cluttered with mathematical instruments.

Frontispiece for Wolff's Mathematical Lexicon.

The entries on page 845 discuss geometric lunes. The “Lune of Hippocrates” is singled out for special consideration.

Page 845 of Wolff's Mathematical Lexicon.

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: Christian Wolff's Mathematical Lexicon," Convergence (July 2016)