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Mathematical Treasures: Nicolaus Reimers' Algebra

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University)

Nicolaus Reimers (1551–1600) was a German astronomer and Imperial Mathematician for Emperor Rudolf II. He is noted for translating Copernicus’s De Revolutionibus into German and for feuding with Tycho Brahe. Note the difficulty in arriving at the title of his 1601 book, Arithmetica Analytica (Latin, Analytic Arithmetic), which he then clarified as Vulgo Cosa (Italian, Common Thing or General Thing), oder (German, or) Algebra. In European algebra of that time, “cosa” (Italian) or “coss” (German) was the unknown quantity. As we will see, the text of this book is in German.

The first page opens with the question, “What is algebra?”

Chapter II introduces the concept of exponentiation, raising a number or coss to a power.

These images were obtained through the courtesy of ETH-Bibliothek Zürich. The book may be viewed in its entirety at e-rara:

Index to Mathematical Treasures

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University), "Mathematical Treasures: Nicolaus Reimers' Algebra," Convergence (July 2017)