Book, 'The Elements of Euclid', paper, compiled by Claude Francois Milliet D'Chales, translated into English by Reeve Williams, printer for A Lea, Globemaker, at the Atlas and Hercules, London, England, 1703
Euclid's Elements of Geometry is the most influential mathematics text of all time. It is the most printed textbook of all time and the second or third most reprinted book after the Bible and possibly the Quran.
In the preparation of his text the Greek mathematician Euclid defined a new approach to mathematics, now called the axiomatic method. In developing geometry he started by nominating five postulates or axioms, or self evident truths, from which every other statement could be proved.
Euclidean geometry was held to be the exemplar for truth, despite some concerns about the fifth postulate, for the next 2000 years. Not only was his treatment beautifully systematic, it appeared to exactly describe the space we occupied.
In the late 1700s, a number of mathematicians, while trying to bolster the suspect fifth axiom, discovered new geometrical forms now known as non-Euclidean geometries.
Their discovery caused a crisis in mathematics now referred to as the foundations crisis. In attempting to settle the foundations crisis Alan Turing conceived of a machine to solve any problem, a universal machine. The Universal Turing Machine is the foundation theory of computing science.
This edition of Euclid's Elements was compiled by Claude Francois Milliet D'Chales (1621 to 1678) who was a Jesuit teacher based variously in Paris, Lyon, Marseilles, eventually becoming Professor of Mathematics at the University of Turin. It was translated from French by Reeve Williams. 'Printed in London for A Lea Globemaker, at the Atlas and Hercules in Cheap-side, near Fleet Street, 1703.'
This particular volume was lent to the Powerhouse Museum by Dr Stephen Jones during the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef exhibition which was mounted in the Museum for the 2009 Ultimo Science Festival and was used by curator Matthew Connell for programs and talks associated with that program. Dr Jones had purchased the book.
Nothing is known of the prior history of the volume but it has been conserved and rebound. The front and back of the title page have a number of signatures, presumably of previous owners, for example, Richard Owen 1797.