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Mathematical Treasure: Poncelet’s Projective Geometry

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University)

Jean-Victor Poncelet (1788-1867) was a French geometer who conceived of much of the theory of modern projective geometry. While confined as a Russian prisoner during the Napoleonic War of 1812, Poncelet perfected his concepts for projective geometry. Upon his release, he published them in Paris in 1822 as Traité des propriétés projectives des figures. The title page of the first volume of the 1865 edition is shown above. The Traité carried two new geometric principles that allowed for a broadening of the scope of projective geometry: the principle of duality and the principle of continuity. This work did much to advance the study of projective geometry in the nineteenth century.

In the Preface the author gave the historic background of his interest in projective geometry.

The Special Collections staff at the Linderman Library of Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, is pleased to cooperate with the Mathematical Association of America to exhibit this and other items from the Library’s holdings in “Mathematical Treasures.” In particular, Convergence would like to thank Lois Fischer Black, Curator, Special Collections, and Ilhan Citak, Archives and Special Collections Librarian, for their kind assistance in helping to make this display possible. You may use these images in your classroom; all other uses require permission from the Special Collections staff, Linderman Library, Lehigh University.

Index to Mathematical Treasures

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University), "Mathematical Treasure: Poncelet’s Projective Geometry," Convergence (August 2014)