Wednesday, October 13, 2010


by Gideon Burton

He brings Mr Briggs into my Lord's chamber, where almost one quarter of an hour was spent, each beholding other with admiration, before one word was spoken. At last Mr Briggs began, -"My Lord, I have undertaken this long journey purposely to see your person, and to know by what engine of wit or ingenuity you came first to think of this most excellent help unto astronomy, namely, the Logarithms ..." [source]

Those geometric series are insane!
Unlike the simpler arithmetic sort,
where patterns of addition stake their claim,
these others soar in exponential sport.
But through the engine of his native wit
John Napier contrived a handy cheat:
with ratios he discovered he could fit
one's multiplying into adding, neat.
The products that were daunting in their mass,
deflated in simplicity of sums.
More calculations now within their grasp,
astronomers could map the cosmos' suns.
     A few simplicities so clear the ground,
     that worlds emerge where none before were found.

Photo: flickr - Marcin Wichary

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