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"Abraham, Planter of Mathematics"

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Author Topic: "Abraham, Planter of Mathematics"  (Read 381 times)
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« Reply #15 on: October 14, 2008, 10:35:53 pm »

Richard Harvey's brother, Gabriel, responded by deploying the Josephan history.31 Gabriel Harvey never published a work regarding the genealogy of mathematics. Nevertheless his surviving notes in his copy of Joannes Thomas Freigius's 1583 world history Mosaicus accrued evidence for this lineage. Freigius was a prominent disciple of Ramus, and Harvey read him through a Ramist filter. While Freigius casually and infrequently mentioned expertise in many arts held by the ancients, Harvey meticulously annotated the passages in Freigius's narrative that fit a Josephan history. When Freigius, in a brief passage on notable individuals between Adam and Noah, included the story of Seth's ancestors, Harvey wrote, "The two famous Mathematical columns,"32 and at the bottom of the page, "The Two Astronomical columns, erected by the progeny of Seth."33 These notes show Harvey both conflating astronomy and mathematics, and introducing a general concern with the transmission of such knowledge. The margins of the text in Freigius's chapter on Abraham were especially fertile ground. Here Harvey wrote: "Abraham was the planter of Mathematics in Egypt, and from him came, not much later, all those mathematical and physical miracles. This was also the origin of almost all natural magic."34 On the next page Harvey noted that, "The arithmetic and astronomy of the Egyptians came from Abraham, a noble professor of the mathematical arts."35 Later, he made clear that Hermes Trismegistus's knowledge of mathematics was easily explained, since Hermes was a descendant of Abraham.36 Harvey filled out his history of mathematics by noting the invention of mathematical instruments: "The Radius, a very old instrument, most excellent and commodious of all geometric instruments. It is commonly called the Jacobs Staff, 'as if it was invented then by that sacred Patriarch.' See Ramus's Geometry, book 9. Doubtless it seemed necessary to add this mathematical [End Page 100] invention of Jacob's to the earlier mathematical inventions of his grandfather Abraham."37 Harvey thus followed Ramus in grafting the history of mathematics directly to the history of the Patriarchs while studying mathematical history alongside technical texts. In so doing, he found an orthodox and honored genealogy for the mathematical arts, salvaging the propriety of his brother's prognostication, and the dignity of his family reputation.
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