Was Newton's Calculus a Dead End? The Continental Influence of MacLaurin's Treatise of Fluxions

Document Type

Book Chapter


Mathematics (Pitzer)

Publication Date



Isaac Newton, Colin Maclaurin, Treatise of Fluxions, Calculus


This is Chapter 4 in Mathematics and the Historian's Craft: The Kenneth O. May Lectures, edited by Michael Kinyon and Glen van Brummelen.

Kenneth Ownsworth May (1915-1977) was a brilliant and influential mathematician, historian, and educator who founded the journal Historia Mathematica as well as the Canadian Society for the History and Philosophy of Mathematics. He viewed the practice of the history of mathematics as a unique melding of the crafts of mathematician and historian. This entails sensitivity to the mathematical content of the subject and to the various contexts in which it can be understood. Mathematical practitioners, for pedagogical reasons or to contextualize their own work, tend to focus on finding the antecedents for current mathematical theories in a search for how particular subdisciplines and results came to be as they are today. On the other hand, historians of mathematics bypass the current state of affairs, and are more interested in questions that bear on the changing nature of the discipline itself. The papers contained in this volume exhibit 12 outstanding examples of historians approaching their craft in distinct ways, yet consistent with Kenneth May's vision. Each paper is based on a keynote address, known as the Kenneth O. May Lecture, delivered at the annual meeting of the Canadian Society for the History and Philosophy of Mathematics.

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© 2005 Springer Science+Business Media, Inc.