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Mathematical Treasure: Montucla's History of Mathematics

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University)

Jean Étienne Montucla (1725–1799) was a French mathematician who perhaps is best remembered for his history of mathematics, Histoire des Mathématiques, first published as two volumes in 1758 and then expanded to four volumes (1799–1802). The two new volumes were published posthumously and with considerable additions by Jérôme Lalande (1732–1807) and other French mathematicians. This work was the most complete history of mathematics published before the 19th century. Volume I considered the origins of mathematics until the fall of the Roman Empire; each successive volume expanded the chronology of the development of mathematics. Volume IV, the last book in the series, discusses mathematics in the West up to the end of the 18th century.

Title page from Montucla's History of Mathematics (1799-1802)

The first page of text offers a “Summary” of what is to follow.

First page of Montucla's History of Mathematics (1799-1802)

These images were obtained through the courtesy of ETH-Bibliothek Zürich. The book may be viewed in its entirety at e-rara:

Index to Mathematical Treasures

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University), "Mathematical Treasure: Montucla's History of Mathematics," Convergence (July 2017)