Retrospect and Prospects
Recorde’s objective in publishing his series of mathematical texts was to provide a means of self-education in such topics, little help being available from either Universities or schools. A century and a half after it was published John Aubrey, a member of the newly formed Royal Society, commended his as the first good arithmetic text to be printed in English. It had been reprinted at intervals of about 3–5 years during this time. His other books were not so durable, but between them they brought English mathematical texts at least up to standards comparable with those on the Continent. In his Crown appointments Recorde successfully applied the mathematics he had taught but his political acumen left much to be desired. His legacy to seventeenth century science is not clear cut. Commitment to the belief that knowledge was of intrinsic worth is repeated throughout his books. His views on what constituted knowledge and how it was acquired, are only to be found scattered throughout the bodies of his texts, largely as answers to posed questions. Collectively, they make it clear that Recorde was prepared to accept as true knowledge that which came from both ‘ancient’ and ‘modern’ sources, but only if it was in accord with experiential data or reason. His idea that knowledge is progressive in nature emerged with time. In these tenets he presaged aspects of the ‘Scientific Revolution’ to come.