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Mathematical Treasure: Mathematics for Army and Navy

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University)

Paul Hoste (1652–1700) was a Jesuit priest and a professor of mathematics at the Royal Seminary of the Chaplains of the Navy at Toulon, France. He was also a naval tactician whose theories revolutionized the performance of the French Navy. In 1692, Hoste published a mathematics text intended for the training of military personnel, Recueil des traits de mathématique: qui peuvent exister nécessaires à un gentilhomme, pour service par mer ou par terre.

Hoste’s work was translated into English by the London writing master William Webster (ca. 1684–1744) and published as A compendious course of practical mathematicks, particularly adapted to the use of the gentlemen of the army and navy.

The title page for the 1730 English language edition is shown above. It is interesting to note the need for military mathematics at this time. Perhaps emboldened by his work with Hoste’s mathematics, Webster went on to publish two more books on arithmetic. Note also the advertisement for Webster’s services on the opposite page and the fact that accounting still bore an Italian association.

This image is presented courtesy of Archives and Special Collections, Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pennsylvania. You may use it in your classroom and/or for private study; for all other purposes, please obtain permission from Archives and Special Collections, Waidner-Spahr Library, Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA.

Index to Mathematical Treasures

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University), "Mathematical Treasure: Mathematics for Army and Navy," Convergence (February 2014)