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A History of the Study of Mathematics at Cambridge

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Overview

For centuries, Cambridge University has attracted some of the world's greatest mathematicians. This 1889 book gives a compelling account of how mathematics developed at Cambridge from the middle ages to the late nineteenth century, from the viewpoint of a leading scholar based at Trinity College who was closely involved in teaching the subject. The achievements of notable individuals including Newton and his school are set in the context of the history of the university, its sometimes uneasy relationship with the town community, the college system, and the origin and growth of the mathematical tripos.

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At any rate no test of proficiency was imposed; and a few facts gleaned from the history of the next century tend to shew that the regulations about the study of the quadrivium were not seriously enforced. The lecture lists for the years 1437 and 1438 of the university of Leipzig (the statutes of which are almost identical with those of Prague as quoted above) are extant, and shew that the only lectures given there on mathematics in those years were confined to astrology. The records' of Bologna, Padua, and Pisa seem to imply that there also astrology was the only scientific subject taught in the fifteenth century, and even as late as 1598 the professor of mathematics at Pisa was required to lecture on the Quadri- partitum, a spurious astrological work attributed to Ptolemy. According to the registers3 of the university of Oxford the only mathematical subjects read there between the years 1449 and 1463 were Ptolemy's astronomy (or some commentary on it) and the first two books of Euclid. Whether most students got as far as this is doubtful. It would seem, from an edition of Euclid published at Paris in 1536, that after 1452 candidates for the master's degree at that university had to take an oath that they had attended lectures on the first six books of Euclid. The only Cambridge mathematicians of the fifteenth century of whom I can find any mention were Holbroke, Marshall, and Hodgkins. No details of their lives and works are known. John Holbroke, master of Peterhouse and chancellor of the university for the years 1428 and 1429, who died in 1437, is reputed to have been a distinguished astronomer and astrologer. Boger Marshall, who was a fellow of Pembroke, taught mathematics andmedicine; he subsequently moved to London and became physician to Edward IV. John Hodgkins, a fell...
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Table of Contents

1. Medieval mathematics; 2. The mathematics of the Renaissance; 3. The commencement of modern mathematics; 5. The rise of the Newtonian school; 6. The later Newtonian school; 7. The analytical school; 8. The organisation and subjects of education; 9. The exercises in the schools; 10. The Mathematical Tripos; 11. Outlines of the history of the university; Index.

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