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Mathematical Treasure: Jeremiah Day’s Course of Mathematics

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University)

Jeremiah Day (1773–1867) compiled the first series of mathematics textbooks aimed at American undergraduates, known as Day’s Course of Mathematics, while he was the mathematics professor at Yale College in the 1810s. He subsequently served as the college’s president for nearly 30 years. For more information on his life and images from a relatively late printing of his algebra textbook, see Convergence’s Mathematical Treasure: Jeremiah Day’s Introduction to Algebra. Some of his other textbooks are shown below.

The second volume in Course of Mathematics was A Treatise of Plane Trigonometry, published in 1815.

Title page for Jeremiah Day's 1815 Treatise of Plane Trigonometry.

Day published the fourth volume in the series, The Mathematical Principles of Navigation and Surveying, in 1817.

Title page of Day's Navigation and Surveying (1817).

A plate from Day's Navigation and Surveying (1817).

In 1836, Day published a Teachers Assistant, providing advice on the teaching of mathematics.

Title page for Day's 1836 Teacher's Assistant.

The introduction sets the tone for the text:

Introdcution to Jeremiah Day's 1836 Teacher's Assistant.

Page iv from Day's 1836 Teacher's Assistant.

Beginning of text for Day's 1836 Teacher's Assistant.

In 1844, James Bates Thomson (1808–1883)—who edited Day's Introduction to Algebra, wrote mathematics textbooks himself, and later prepared a teacher’s manual for Day's entire Course of Mathematics—published A Key to Day’s Algebra:

Title page for Key to the Abridgment of Day's Algebra.

Day is also covered in detail in Amy Ackerberg-Hastings’s 2000 “Mathematics is a Gentleman’s Art: Analysis and Synthesis in American College Geometry Teaching, 1790–1840” (Iowa State University).

HathiTrust contains full digitizations of the copies of Plane Trigonometry, Navigation and Surveying and Key held by New York Public Library; and Teacher’s Assistant held by the University of Michigan.

Index to Mathematical Treasures

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University), "Mathematical Treasure: Jeremiah Day’s Course of Mathematics," Convergence (October 2021)