Synopses & Reviews
Author, astrologer, journalist, satirist, and 'well-willer to the mathematics', Poor Robin of Saffron Walden was a fantastic, yet invented, figure of British popular culture from the Restoration to the end of the Georgian period.
Poor Robin's Almanac first appeared in 1662, developing an enthusiastic following and long outliving its original creator to last until 1828.
Benjamin Wardhaugh tells the great story of Georgian popular mathematics - through Poor Robin's remarkable life, from his humble beginnings as an almanac-writer through to best-selling stardom, controversy, and decline. Using the character, wit, and columns of Poor Robin, Wardhaugh explores the mathematics of ordinary people, from learning sums to using mathematics in weighing and measuring, in business, agriculture, map-making, and navigation.
This is a history of mathematics that is rarely thought about -- creative, popular, and led by practical and social needs. It is centered on the ordinary people that used it. Their names remain little-known; their solutions have vanished along with the situations that required them; but their energy and ideas - as captured by Poor Robin - create a wonderfully rich picture of what mathematics can be, and has been.
About the Author
Benjamin Wardhaugh lives in Oxford. He trained in mathematics, music and history, and has taught both science to historians and history to mathematicians. He is a former Fellow of All Souls College; he now studies and writes about history, particularly its mathematical parts.
Table of Contents
1. 'Doctor Faustus's Day': Making fun Almanac day - high-class astrology - Poor Robin and his authors - mathematics and its mockers
2. 'The dismal and long expected morning': Getting it wrong The eclipse that never was - the South Sea Bubble - mathematics and its reputation - seamen's back-dated wages
3. 'Fitted to the meanest capacity': Learning it Isaac Hatch's exercises - maths at school - a gift for a maid - Ann Mohun's book
4. 'Beer, wine and malt': Using it Mathematics in your day - John Dougharty's barrel - maths and its instruments - Richard Shittler and his book
5. 'Beautifying the mind': Geometry and its effects Thomas Porcher's beautiful pages - How Descartes can change your life - geometry unbound - making yourself mad
6. 'A geometrical creation': Ordering the world The gentlemen of Spaulding - Desaguliers and his lectures - reforming the calendar - sawing up an organ
7. 'The number of sheep in Ireland': Getting it right Political arithmetic - facts, facts, facts - stacking the guineas - crossing the globe
8. 'The terrible Pons asinorum': Playing with it Comedy in the classroom - It might be you - The Ladies' Diary - the obscenometer and the death of Poor Robin