Thomas Hariot, 1560-1621
Artis analyticae praxis, 1631
The use of mathematical symbols started to become commonplace in the late sixteenth century. Once the idea of writing mathematics symbolically began to be established the practice rapidly gathered pace. New symbols were invented by a number of English writers in the early seventeenth century. One of the most prolific and imaginative was Thomas Hariot. Two of his inventions were two new signs for inequality, ‘greater than’ and ‘less than’ written with two short cross strokes written originally in different sizes and orientations. The constraints of printing, however, enforced linearity and uniformity. In Hariot’s posthumous Artis analyticae praxis (1631) displayed here we see the more or less modern forms of the inequality signs as they appeared in print for the first time. The same page shows other notation used and popularized by Harriot, in particular the use of lower case letters, and the convention of writing ab for a times b.
(Quoted from article by J.Stedall, The Queen’s College Insight, 2011)
We believe this copy of Praxis was purchased for the Library in the seventeenth century. Like NN.a.1/1 displayed nearby it bears the marks of a chain staple on the front board and was probably stored in the Upper Library soon after its construction in the 1690s.