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“A preface to the reader”, extrait de “Treatise of algebra”, both “Historical and practical” Londres 1685. (B.N. code V 1515 in fol.). (English) Zbl 0669.01025
Cah. Sémin. Hist. Math. 10, 233-265 (1989).
In his book “The mathematical work of John Wallis, D. D., F. R. S., 1616-1703” [Taylor & Francis, London 1938, reprint Chelsea Publ. Comp. (New York 1981; Zbl 0505.01008)] J. F. Scott characterized the “Treatise of algebra” as follows (p. 133): “This important work, which was written in English, appeared in 1685, and of all the author’s vast output it was probably during the next hundred years or more the most widely read. It rapidly became a standard text-book on the subject, and, largely on account of the improved notation which Wallis adopted in its pages, it soon displaced many of the treatises then current. It is, however, not merely as a treatise on algebra that the work claims attention: the book marks the beginning, in England at least, of the serious study of the history of mathematics.” He then goes on to discuss the widely diverging opinions of later historians about the reliability of the historical sections in Wallis’s “Algebra”. The “Preface to the reader” is, for the most part, a summary of the historical account. It is, therefore, marred by Wallis’s tendency to overrate the achievements of his nation. Apart from that, 300 years after its composition it has become a historical document. As such it presupposes readers familiar with the history of mathematics as well as with the situation in which Wallis was writing this Preface. The present (first?) translation into French may be welcome to readers not well acquainted with the English language (as it was written three centuries ago). The translator added about 20 footnotes - helpful, but not sufficient for a modern reader.
Reviewer: C.J.Scriba
01A75Collected or selected works
01A45Mathematics in the 17th century
01A05General histories, source books
history; algebra