John Pell (1611-1685) and His Correspondence with Sir Charles Cavendish

John Pell (1611-1685) and His Correspondence with Sir Charles Cavendish : The Mental World of an Early Modern Mathematician

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The mathematician John Pell was a member of that golden generation of scientists Boyle, Wren, Hooke, and others which came together in the early Royal Society. Although he left a huge body of manuscript materials, he has remained an extraordinarily neglected figure, whose papers have never been properly explored. This book, the first ever full-length study of Pell, presents an in-depth account of his life and mathematical thinking, based on a detailed study of his
manuscripts. It not only restores to his proper place in history a figure who was one of the leading mathematicians of his day; it also brings to life a strange, appealing, but awkward character, whose failure to publish his discoveries was caused by powerful scruples. In addition, this book shows that
the range of Pell's interests extended far beyond mathematics. He was a key member of the circle of the 'intelligencer' Samuel Hartlib; he prepared translations of works by Descartes and Comenius; in the 1650s he served as Cromwell's envoy to Switzerland; and in the last part of his life he was an active member of the Royal Society, interested in the whole range of its activities. The study of Pell's life and thought thus illuminates many different aspects of 17th-century intellectual life. The
book is in three parts. The first is a detailed biography of Pell; the second is an extended essay on his mathematical work; the third is a richly annotated edition of his correspondence with Sir Charles Cavendish. This correspondence, which has often been cited by scholars but has never been
published in full, is concerned not only with mathematics but also with optics, philosophy, and many other subjects; conducted mainly while Pell was in the Netherlands and Cavendish was also on the Continent, it is an unusually fascinating example of the correspondence that flourished in the 17th-century 'Republic of letters'. This book will be an essential resource not only for historians of mathematics, science, and philosophy, but also for intellectual and cultural historians of early modern
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Product details

  • Hardback | 664 pages
  • 163 x 242 x 40mm | 1,318g
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Revised ed.
  • 0198564848
  • 9780198564843

Table of contents

Part 1. The life of John Pell (1611-1685) ; Part 2. The mathematics of John Pell ; Part 3. The Pell-Cavendish correspondence.
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Review quote

...this is a magnificent book; rich, accurate, skillful, informative and thought provoking. * Jan van Maanen, Metascience 15, 2006 * The work of Noel Malcolm and Jacqueline Stedall is a very welcome contribution to the history and philosophy of mathematics, and they are to be congratulated for producing such a thorough and important study * Douglas M. Jesseph, Review Symposium * Malcolm's edition of Pell's correspondence with Sir Charles Cavendish... should be regarded as one of the best intellectual biographies of recent years. * Mordechai Feingold, Huntingdon Library Quarterly, Vol 69 no 3 * ...Noel Malcolm and Jacqueline Stedall have joined forces to produce a triumph of cooperative scholarship, which reconstructs Pell's life, intellectual context and mathematics...The authors have turned the challenging nature of their subject to advantage, amply demonstrating that the proper object of intellectual history is not just famous names and winning theories, but extends to the unknown and unvalued. Their meticulous piecing together of the records brings to
life a period of enormous intellectual productivity, detailing its richness and vivacity, the networks, the systems of patronage and self-promotion, with all their quirks and pitfalls. * The British Journal for the History of Science *
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