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Mathematical Treasure: Keill's 'Plain' and Spherical Trigonometry

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University)

John Keill (1671-1721) studied mathematics with David Gregory in Scotland. He migrated with Gregory from Scotland to Oxford University. Keill was elected to the Royal Society in 1701, and in 1712 he became the Savilian Professor of Astronomy at Oxford. Throughout his career, he was an influential advocate of Newton’s theories. His Elements of [Plane] and Spherical Trigonometry. Also a Short Treatise of … Logarithms (1726) is the first English translation of his text which was originally published in Latin in 1715.

Title page of Elements of Plain and Spherical Trigonometry... by John Keill, 1726

Samuel Cunn, a textbook writer and translator of Newton’s Arithmetica who flourished in the first part of the eighteenth century, edited and translated later copies of Keill’s work.

The image above was obtained through the courtesy of the Erwin Tomash Library on the History of Computing, Charles Babbage Institute, University of Minnesota.

Erwin Tomash (1921-2012) was a pioneering computer scientist, helping launch the U.S. computer industry from the 1940s onward. During the 1970s he became interested in the history of computer science, and founded the Charles Babbage Society, and its research arm, the Charles Babbage Institute. The Institute, an archive and research center, is housed at the University of Minnesota. Its Erwin Tomash Library on the History of Computing began with Tomash's 2009 donation to the Institute of much of his own collection of rare books from the history of mathematics and computing. (Source: Jeffrey R. Yost, Computer Industry Pioneer: Erwin Tomash (1921-2012), IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, April-June 2013, 4-7.)

Index to Mathematical Treasures

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University), "Mathematical Treasure: Keill's 'Plain' and Spherical Trigonometry," Convergence (August 2018)