, Volume 23, Issue 2, pp 277–279 | Cite as

A forgotten discipline

Glen van Brummelen: Heavenly mathematics: The forgotten art of spherical trigonometry. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2013, xvi+192pp, $35.00 HB
  • John M. Steele
Book Review

Scientific disciplines rise and fall in popularity, but few subjects have suffered such a swift decline as has befallen spherical trigonometry over the past century. For most of the past two millennia, spherical trigonometry played an essential role within astronomical and navigational science and until the mid-twentieth century, it formed a significant part of high school mathematical curricula alongside plane trigonometry. Suddenly, in the 1950s and 1960s, spherical trigonometry dropped out of the teaching of mathematics. Most students today barely know that the subject exists at all and would be shocked to know of the existence of triangles whose angles add up to more than 180 degrees. Van Brummelen’s book is an attempt to introduce spherical trigonometry to an audience of mathematicians and mathematically educated individuals interested in this forgotten subject.

Van Brummelen begins his book with a simple introduction to some of the concepts of spherical trigonometry and a...

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Egyptology and Ancient Western Asian StudiesBrown UniversityProvidenceUSA

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