William
Oughtred believed
responsible for many symbols now used in
mathematics
William Oughtred was born in
Eton, England, on March 5, 1574. He received his
early mathematical training at Eton and at Kings
College at Cambridge. In 1604 he left the
university to become vicar of Shalford; he
subsequently became rector of Albury. During his
residence in Albury, Oughtred had a succession of
students coming to him for instruction in
mathematics.
In 1631, Oughtred published Clovis
mathematicae, which included a description
of HinduArabic notation and decimal fractions,
as well as a considerable section on algebra.
Oughtred experimented with many different
algebraic symbols, and it is likely that he is
responsible for the use of :: in writing a
proportion, ~ to denote the value of the
difference between two numbers, and X for
multiplication. He also adapted John Napier's logarithms to a scale, inventing a
circular slide rule about 1632 and a linear slide rule by
1633. In 1657, he published Trigonometry,
a 36page treatment of plane and spherical
trigonometry. Among the symbols developed in this
work were sin, tan and sec.
He died Albury on June 30, 1660.
John Napier
Slide Rule
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