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"Abraham, Planter of Mathematics"

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Author Topic: "Abraham, Planter of Mathematics"  (Read 462 times)
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« on: October 14, 2008, 10:30:09 pm »

Vergil's fragmentary Josephan history met Annius's strident and expansive version in Peter Ramus's 1569 Scholae Mathematicae. From the 1540s until his murder in the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, Ramus spearheaded a movement to reform the curriculum of Parisian universities.24 His myriad publications included textbooks on geometry and mathematics, [End Page 96] and in his influential 1569 Scholae Mathematicae, Ramus presented an exhaustive vision of the history of mathematics. As he explained, "Aristotle judged the arts to be eternal, as the world is, but that just as stars rise and set, the arts sometimes are excited and flourish, and at other times are debased and condemned. This was the great verdict of that great philosopher: that the arts deal with eternal and immutable things; but that the knowledge of them among men is not eternal."25 Ramus's history covered more ground than his predecessors, including the entire sweep of history from creation to his present, and he incorporated all mathematical arts, from philosophy to hydraulics.

The revolutions in the fortunes of mathematics, Ramus claimed, could be analyzed by modifying the exegetical theory of the Four Monarchies for periods of mathematics. The first was the Chaldean period, lasting from Adam to Abraham. Ramus needed only the Pillars as evidence. The Abrahamic diffusion inaugurated the second era, but Ramus made clear that Abraham was hardly alone in his divine knowledge of mathematics: Diodorus Siculus, (pseudo-)Berosus, Pliny, and Cicero showed that the ancient world had recognized a general Chaldean mastery in the discipline. For Ramus this did not substantiate a uniform condemnation. Overzealous deployment of these arts was troublesome, but the arts themselves were not.
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