Isaac Todhunter (1820-1884): Textbook writer, scholar, coach and historian of science

  • Johnson W
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Abstract

An outline of Todhunter's life history is first given and we then consider (unequally however) his contributions to mathematical scholarship through his extensive, weighty books commenting on, to varying degrees, the History of the Calculus of Variations, the Attraction and Figure of the Earth, Probability Theory and the Theory of Elasticity. These are followed by short accounts of some of his score or more well-known textbooks at junior and sophomore level, mostly written in about the middle third of the 19th century. A number of Todhunter's miscellaneous yet mathematics-related books are also discussed and finally, his success as a private tutor and a coach of undergraduates for mathematics degrees at Cambridge in the late 19th century. Today, Todhunter's books have disappeared from library shelves and his activity as a historian of applied mathematics has to be recognised as now more or less forgotten. Todhunter is seen to have been a man of great influence in his time, a highly respected college and university man, greatly honoured at the time of his death but now almost universally neglected. The purpose of this paper is to try to revive appreciation of his contributions in their several dimensions. Copyright © 1996 Elsevier Science Ltd.

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  • W. Johnson

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