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Tuesday, April 02, 2019

Review: Mathematician Thomas Harriot’s reputation resurrected in new biography | Mathematician - Charleston Post Courier

Lost in the mists of history until comparatively recently was the Elizabethan- and Jacobean-era mathematician Thomas Harriot who, in many respects, anticipated the discoveries of Galileo, Kepler, Descartes and even Newton, by Bill Thompson, Special to The Post and Courier.

Thomas Harriot: A Life in Science
That he was little known to students of the history of science had much to do with his failure to publish his work, a reticence owning to political and religious tensions of the day as well as to circumstance and his own indifference to the limelight.

Robyn Arianrhod, a research fellow at the School of Mathematical Sciences at Monash University in Melbourne, adds the latest cornerstone to the edifice of Harriot’s resurrected reputation. Hers is an authoritative, often engrossing marriage of history and science.

At age 24, Oxford graduate Harriot (1560-1621) already had captured the attention of Sir Walter Raleigh (or Ralegh, in the author’s spelling), who served as a navigational theorist on the latter’s first reconnaissance to the New World. Harriot was indispensable to its success, both in his tutoring of pilots and through his open-minded, friendly encounters with native peoples...

Like Raleigh, Harriot retained a life-long interest in the New World. But he “yearned to go deeper into the foundations of pure mathematics and physics — to discover ‘new worlds’ in numbers and the laws of nature rather than through geographical exploration.”

By studying his life and career, Harriot helps us understand how modern mathematics and science began to emerge. Arianrhod’s is a significant achievement.

Source: Charleston Post Courier