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Mathematical Treasure: Simson on Conic Sections

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University)

Robert Simson (1687–1768) was a Scottish mathematician and a renowned geometer. Simson spent most of his mathematical career as a Professor of Mathematics at Glasgow University. This Elements of the Conic Sections originated in a much larger work written in Latin (Sectionum Conicarum), which first appeared in 1735. The first three books were translated into English around 1775 and retitled; the title page of the 1804 reprint of the textbook is shown above.

Some construction exercises involving an ellipse are shown above and below on pages 138-139.

The plate of illustrations shown below includes the relevant Fig. 19 of the discussion on page 138.

The images above are provided courtesy of Archives and Special Collections, Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

Index of Mathematical Treasures

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University), "Mathematical Treasure: Simson on Conic Sections," Convergence (August 2015)