Document Type



Mathematics (Pitzer)

Publication Date



Calculus, Isaac Newton, Colin Maclaurin, Treatise of Fluxions


We will show that Maclaurin's Treatise of Fluxions did develop important ideas and techniques and that it did influence the mainstream of mathematics. The Newtonian tradition in calculus did not come to an end in Maclaurin's Britain. Instead, Maclaurin's Treatise served to transmit Newtonian ideas in calculus, improved and expanded, to the Continent. We will look at what these ideas were, what Maclaurin did with them, and what happened to this work afterwards. Then, we will ask what by then should be an interesting question: why has Maclaurin's role been so consistently underrated? Thse questions will involve general matters of history and historical writing as well as the development of mathematics, and will illustrate the inseparability of the external and internal approaches in understanding the history of science.


Please note that this paper won the Lester R. Ford Award in 1998.

Rights Information

© 1997 Mathematical Association of America. All Rights Reserved.