You are here

Mathematical Treasure: Manuscript of Naval Mathematics

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University)

An unusual and particular prize of the Rauner Special Collections Library of Dartmouth College is the handwritten and illustrated A Course of Mathematical Learning Taught in the Royal Academy, Portsmouth (1806). The work’s author is N. R. Tomlinson who described himself merely as “a student there.”

The Royal Naval Academy in Portsmouth, England was founded in 1729 to train youth of noble birth, thirteen to sixteen years of age, for service in the Royal Navy. As an attending student, Tomlinson would satisfy these criteria. In 1806, the Academy became The Royal Naval College; perhaps it was this transition that inspired the composition of this work. The author provided lessons and examples for the mathematical curriculum of a British naval cadet of the period. Whether the material is idealized or actual remains unknown; however, the scope of instruction indicates the topics considered.


Spherical Trigonometry:


Marine Surveying:

Fortification (i.e. geometric design of military structures):

These images are presented through the courtesy of the Dartmouth College Libraries, Hanover, New Hampshire.


Index to Mathematical Treasures


Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University), "Mathematical Treasure: Manuscript of Naval Mathematics ," Convergence (October 2019)