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Mathematical Treasure: Farrar’s Translation of Lacroix’s Algebra

Frank J. Swetz (Pennsylvania State University)

Silvestre François Lacroix (1765-1843) was a French mathematician and one of the first mathematics professors at the École Polytechnique in Paris. A feature of Polytechnique education was the use of textbooks written by the instructors. At the time this was a novel innovation; previously, professors had lectured and students took notes. Mathematics textbooks at the University level added a new and welcome feature to learning mathematics. Lacroix published his Elements of Algebra (1799) for his students, but soon British and American universities desired translated copies of such French works. John Farrar (1779–1853), Hollis Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy at Harvard University, translated Lacroix’s Algebra for his students at Harvard in 1818. The edition shown above is the third from 1831.

A view of the contents of the Algebra and a discussion of a "General Theory of Equations"

Continuation of a "General Theory of Equations”

The Special Collections staff at the Linderman Library of Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, is pleased to cooperate with the Mathematical Association of America to exhibit this and other items from the Library’s holdings in “Mathematical Treasures.” In particular, Convergence would like to thank Lois Fischer Black, Curator, Special Collections, and Ilhan Citak, Archives and Special Collections Librarian, for their kind assistance in helping to make this display possible. You may use these images in your classroom; all other uses require permission from the Special Collections staff, Linderman Library, Lehigh University.

Index to Mathematical Treasures

Frank J. Swetz (Pennsylvania State University), "Mathematical Treasure: Farrar’s Translation of Lacroix’s Algebra," Convergence (August 2013)