The History of Mathematical Tables

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The oldest known mathematical table was found in the ancient Sumerian city of Shuruppag in southern Iraq. Since then, tables have been an important feature of mathematical activity; table making and printed tabular matter are important precursors to modern computing and information processing. This book contains a series of articles summarising the technical, institutional and intellectual history of mathematical tables from earliest times until the late twentieth century. It covers mathematical tables (the most important computing aid for several hundred years until the 1960s), data tables (eg. Census tables), professional tables (eg. insurance tables), and spreadsheets - the most recent tabular innovation. The book is presented in a scholarly yet accessible way, making appropriate use of text boxes and illustrations. Each chapter has a frontispiece featuring a table along with a small illustration of the source where the table was first displayed. Most chapters have sidebars telling a short "story" or history relating to the chapter. The aim of this edited volume is to capture the history of tables through eleven chapters written by subject specialists. The contributors describe the various information processing techniques and artefacts whose unifying concept is "the mathematical table".show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 372 pages
  • 156 x 235 x 19mm | 792g
  • Oxford University Press
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • numerous halftones and figures
  • 0198508417
  • 9780198508410
  • 1,836,361

Table of contents

Introduction ; Table and tabular formatting in Sumer, Babylonia and Assyria, 2500 BCE - 50 CE ; The making of logarithm tables ; The computation factory: de Prony's project for making tables in the 1790's ; Difference engines: from Muller to Comrie ; The 'unerring certainty of mechanical agency': machines and table making in the nineteenth century ; Table making in astronomy ; The General Registry Office and the tabulation of data, 1837 - 1939 ; Table making by committee; British table maker 1871 - 1965 ; Table making for the relief of labour ; The making of astronomical tables in H.M. Nautical Almanac Office ; The rise and rise of the spreadsheet ; Biographical Notesshow more

Review quote

The book itself is the fruit of a very good idea of the British Society for the History of Mathematics, which was to have a conference and then a book on the theme of mathematical tables, and the editors are to be congratulated on a handsome volume on the social history of mathematics. Notes and Records of The Royal Societyshow more