A course of mathematics (1798‒1841): the American story of a British textbook. (English)

Bjarnadóttir, Kristín (ed.) et al., “Dig where you stand" 2. Proceedings of the second “International conference on the history of mathematics education", New University of Lisbon, Portugal, October 2‒5, 2011. Lisbon: UIED, Unidade de Investigação Educação e Desenvolvimento; Caparica: Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Faculdade de Ciência e Tecnologia (ISBN 978-989-97487-2-9/pbk). 383-397 (2012).

Summary: A course of mathematics is an English mathematics textbook first published in 1798 by Charles Hutton, professor at the Royal Military Academy in London. The document, which praises the mathematical science for its practical power, is characterized by deliberately general-interest content and a pragmatic style. Following its publication in England, the textbook was immediately and integrally sent to the United States. In 1812, a pool of New-York publishers ordered an American version of $A$ course of mathematics from Robert Adrain, a professor whose works and contributions to scientific papers had given him some recognition. The textbook was then annotated, corrected and reorganized. With the transatlantic circulation of the texts, both the English and the American versions were updated until 1841, with each version being used as an incomplete source for the other. These reciprocal updates enlighten a slow but undeniable differentiation of the two books; the American course gains a specific identity especially with the integration of french mathematical content. The analysis of the evolutionary path of this textbook illustrates how the mathematics taught in America, previously strongly influenced by their English peers, became more independent in the first decades of the nineteenth century.