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Newton, Maclaurin, and the Authority of Mathematics

by Judith Grabiner

Year of Award: 2005

Publication Information: The American Mathematical Monthly, vol. 111, no. 10, December 2004, pp. 841-852

Summary: Such was Isaac Newton's impact on the intellectual world that his contemporaries hoped that that his methods would be universally effective, whether the area was science, society, or religion.  This paper examines the career of Colin Maclaurin and shows that the "Newtonian style" is both the key to understanding what made Maclaurin tick intellectually and to understanding the nature of his influence.

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About the Author: (from The American Mathematical Monthly, v. 111, no. 10, (2004)) Judith Grabiner received her B.S. in mathematics from the University of Chicago in 1960, and her Ph.D. in the history of science from Harvard in 1966. Her research interests have long included the history of the calculus, and Lagrange and Cauchy led her to Maclaurin, molasses barrels, and an interest in the relations between mathematics and society. Her book The Origins of Cauchy's Rigorous Calculus (M.I.T. Press, 1981) is currently being reprinted by Dover Publications. In 2003 she won the MAA's Haimo Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching. At present she is the Flora Sanborn Pitzer Professor of Mathematics at Pitzer College in Claremont, California.


Subject classification(s): Mathematics History
Publication Date: 
Tuesday, September 23, 2008