Presenter Information

Maureen Moran

Mentor

Dick Jardine

Location

David F. Putnam Science Center - 154

Abstract

Nathaniel Bowditch (1773-1838) was an American mathematician who pulled himself out of a life of poverty through self-education. Fulfilling an early passion for mathematics, he taught himself advanced topics by reading the works of the masters; he learned Latin, French, and German on his own to read mathematical texts. He became an influential mathematician, influencing future generations of research mathematicians. Bowditch corrected the mathematical tables of existing navigational references and the mathematical work of such luminaries as Newton and Laplace. In this talk we discuss how Bowditch was influenced by predecessors and in turn influenced future generations. He explained mathematics in a way accessible to all, inspiring American navigators and educators, as well as earning the respect of contemporaries, including Thomas Jefferson. Our purpose is to reveal that the mathematical work of early eighteenth century Americans, particularly Bowditch, was at a higher level than many believe.

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Mathematics Commons

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Apr 11th, 10:20 AM Apr 11th, 11:20 AM

From the High Seas to Life Insurance: The Mathematics of Nathaniel Bowditch

David F. Putnam Science Center - 154

Nathaniel Bowditch (1773-1838) was an American mathematician who pulled himself out of a life of poverty through self-education. Fulfilling an early passion for mathematics, he taught himself advanced topics by reading the works of the masters; he learned Latin, French, and German on his own to read mathematical texts. He became an influential mathematician, influencing future generations of research mathematicians. Bowditch corrected the mathematical tables of existing navigational references and the mathematical work of such luminaries as Newton and Laplace. In this talk we discuss how Bowditch was influenced by predecessors and in turn influenced future generations. He explained mathematics in a way accessible to all, inspiring American navigators and educators, as well as earning the respect of contemporaries, including Thomas Jefferson. Our purpose is to reveal that the mathematical work of early eighteenth century Americans, particularly Bowditch, was at a higher level than many believe.