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Mathematical Treasure: Nicolaus Mercator on Logarithms

Frank J. Swetz (Pennsylvania State University)

Nicolaus Mercator (ca. 1620-1687) was a versatile German-born mathematician and astronomer who lived in England from before 1660 onward. He was a strong advocate of Kepler’s theories and an active correspondent with Isaac Newton. In his Logarithmotechnia (1668), he considered the mechanics of logarithms and, in the process, introduced the “Mercator series.” Here is the title page of this work, which was published as a dual volume with Exercitatio Geometrica de Maximis et Minimis, a work by Michelangelo Ricci (1619-1682). Ricci, a cardinal in the Catholic Church, was also a well-respected mathematician of this time.

The first page of Mercator’s text:

On page 12, Mercator discussed the properties of figurate numbers.

The images above are presented courtesy of ETH-Zürich and are available via e-rara.

Index to Mathematical Treasures

Frank J. Swetz (Pennsylvania State University), "Mathematical Treasure: Nicolaus Mercator on Logarithms," Convergence (July 2018)