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Mathematical Treasure: Laplace’s Mathematics Curriculum

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University)

The Journal de L’Ecole Polytechnique is one of the oldest French scientific journals. It was published continuously from 1795 to 1939. Disrupted by the Second World War, the Journal has recently resumed publication. During its initial duration, it featured the works of many outstanding French mathematicians. In 1795, Pierre Laplace was appointed as a mathematics instructor at the newly founded Ecole Normale, where he devised and taught a new mathematical curriculum for the students. The 1812 edition of the Journal de L’Ecole Polytechnique contains a description of the mathematics course of study, “Leçons de mathemátiques.”

Title page of 1812 Journal de L'Ecole Polytechnique.

On pages 35 and 36, Laplace demonstrated the use of the method of “completing the square” to solve the equation \(3x-x^2=2.\)

Page 35 of 1812 Journal de L'Ecole Polytechnique.Page 36 of 1812 Journal de L'Ecole Polytechnique.

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: Laplace’s Mathematics Curriculum," Convergence (October 2016)