© 2002

From Discrete to Continuous

The Broadening of Number Concepts in Early Modern England


Part of the Australasian Studies in History and Philosophy of Science book series (AUST, volume 16)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-ix
  2. Katherine Neal
    Pages 1-11
  3. Katherine Neal
    Pages 12-27
  4. Katherine Neal
    Pages 28-45
  5. Katherine Neal
    Pages 46-79
  6. Katherine Neal
    Pages 80-114
  7. Katherine Neal
    Pages 115-137
  8. Katherine Neal
    Pages 138-156
  9. Katherine Neal
    Pages 157-162
  10. Back Matter
    Pages 163-175

About this book


In the early modern period, a crucial transformation occurred in the classical conception of number and magnitude. Traditionally, numbers were merely collections of discrete units that measured some multiple. Magnitude, on the other hand, was usually described as being continuous, or being divisible into parts that are infinitely divisible. This traditional idea of discrete number versus continuous magnitude was challenged in the early modern period in several ways.

This detailed study explores how the development of algebraic symbolism, logarithms, and the growing practical demands for an expanded number concept all contributed to a broadening of the number concept in early modern England. An interest in solving practical problems was not, in itself, enough to cause a generalisation of the number concept. It was the combined impact of novel practical applications together with the concomitant development of such mathematical advances as algebraic notation and logarithms that produced a broadened number concept.


Henry Briggs Isaac Barrow John Napier John Wallis algebraic symbolism logarithms number concept

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.The University of SydneySydneyAustralia

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title From Discrete to Continuous
  • Book Subtitle The Broadening of Number Concepts in Early Modern England
  • Authors K. Neal
  • Series Title Australasian Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2002
  • Publisher Name Springer, Dordrecht
  • eBook Packages Springer Book Archive
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-1-4020-0565-7
  • Softcover ISBN 978-90-481-5993-2
  • eBook ISBN 978-94-017-0077-1
  • Series ISSN 0929-6425
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages IX, 175
  • Number of Illustrations 0 b/w illustrations, 0 illustrations in colour
  • Topics History of Mathematical Sciences
    History, general
    Mathematics Education
  • Buy this book on publisher's site
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