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Mathematical Treasures - Jonas Moore's Arithmetick in Four Books

Frank J. Swetz and Victor J. Katz

Title page of Moore's Arithemtic

This is the title page of Moore's Arithmetick in Four Books, by Jonas Moore (1627 - 1679). Moore served many years as a surveyor, and his work was necessary in the draining of the Fens, a marshland in eastern England near Cambridge. His Arithmetick first appeared in 1650, but this is a copy of the third edition, published nine years after his death. Moore's portrait is on the left. Note that, according to the title page, it is in algebra that "all difficult questions receive their analytical laws and resolutions."

Moore, pp. 274-275

On pp. 274-275, there is a mixture problem dealing with the composition of an ointment. Notice the ingredients.


Moore, p. 407

Moore gives on p. 407 various Renaissance and 17th century names and notations for the powers of an unknown in a comprehensive table. Note that columns 7, 8, and 9 give Viète's, Harriot's, and Descartes' notation for powers, respectively. (The actual powers are below the central line; above the reciprocals of the powers.)


Moore, pp. 454-455

On pp. 454 - 457, Moore gives a careful treatment, with examples, of the procedure for turning a word problem into an algebraic equation. But he always aims at generality, if possible. Interestingly, Moore gives on p. 454 both Viète's and Descartes' procedure for choosing letters for knowns and unknowns.


Moore, pp. 456-457

Note Moore's final statement, which still applies today: "And note that of all the parts of equation, this only of the invention is most difficult." Students will probably agree with that statement.

Index to Mathematical Treasures

Frank J. Swetz and Victor J. Katz, "Mathematical Treasures - Jonas Moore's Arithmetick in Four Books," Convergence (January 2011)

Mathematical Treasures from the Smith and Plimpton Collections at Columbia University