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Mathematical Treasure: Salmon’s Treatise on Conic Sections

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University)

George Salmon (1819-1904) was an Irish mathematician who spent his professional life teaching at Trinity College in Dublin. He was close friends with Arthur Cayley (1821-1895) and James Joseph Sylvester (1814-1897). Salmon was considered one of the finest mathematical writers of his time. His most famous and influential book was his Treatise on Conic Sections: An Account of Some of the Most Modern Algebraic and Geometric Methods, first published in 1848. The book went through five English language editions and was translated into several other languages. The title page viewed above is from the 1869 edition. In this book, Salmon highlighted the theories of his friends Cayley and Sylvester.

On pages 286-289, above, Salmon discussed the harmonic and anharmonic properties of conic sections.

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.

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University), "Mathematical Treasure: Salmon’s Treatise on Conic Sections," Convergence (August 2014)