Friday, August 31, 2012

Napier's bones




I'm leaving Edinburgh tomorrow - it's a wonderful city, not just beautiful but with a long history of achievement in the sciences and arts. One of Edinburgh's most famous sons was John Napier who in 1617 published a work called Rabdologiæ, that made use of multiplication tables embedded in "bones." Using Napier's bones multiplication can be reduced to addition operations and division to subtractions. More advanced use of the bones can even extract square roots. Napier's bones are not the same as logarithms, with which Napier's name is also associated. Napier University in Edinburgh is named in his honour.