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John Venn and Venn Diagrams

Date: 09/04/98 at 14:50:03
From: Tammy Potemra
Subject: John Venn and Venn Diagrams

I need to know the name of the work which Venn diagrams were first 
used. I also need some information about his life and another name for 
Venn diagrams. I searched the school libary and found nothing. Please 

Date: 09/04/98 at 15:33:26
From: Doctor Anthony
Subject: Re: John Venn and Venn Diagrams

See the biography at the MacTutor History of Mathematics archive 
at the University of St. Andrews:

John Venn

Venn came from a Low Church Evangelical background and when he entered 
Gonville and Caius College Cambridge in 1853 he had so slight an 
acquaintance with books of any kind that he may be said to have begun 
there his knowledge of literature. He graduated in 1857, was elected a 
Fellow in that year and two years later was ordained a priest. For a 
year he was curate at Mortlake. In 1862 he returned to Cambridge 
University as a lecturer in Moral Science, studying and teaching logic 
and probability theory. He developed Boole's mathematical logic and is 
best known for his diagrammatic way of representing sets and their 
unions and intersections. 

Venn considered three discs R, S, and T as typical subsets of a set U. 
The intersections of these discs and their complements divide U into 8 
nonoverlapping regions, the unions of which give 256 different Boolean 
combinations of the original sets R, S, T. 

Venn wrote Logic of Chance in 1866 which Keynes described as strikingly 
original and considerably influenced the development of the theory of 
statistics. Venn published Symbolic Logic in 1881 and The Principles of 
Empirical Logic in 1889. The second of these is rather less original 
but the first was described by Keynes as probably his most enduring 
work on logic. In 1883 Venn was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. 
About this time his career changed direction. He had already left the 
Church in 1870 but his interest now turned to history. He wrote a 
history of his college, publishing The Biographical History of Gonville 
and Caius College 1349-1897 in 1897. 

He then undertook the immense task of compiling a history of Cambridge 
University, the first volume of which was published in 1922. He was 
assisted by his son in this task which was described by another 
historian in these terms: 

   It is difficult for anyone who has not seen the work in its making 
   to realise the immense amount of research involved in this great 

Venn had other skills and interests too, including a rare skill in 
building machines. He used his skill to build a machine for bowling 
cricket balls which was so good that when the Australian Cricket team 
visited Cambridge in 1909, Venn's machine clean bowled one of its top 
stars four times. 

- Doctor Anthony, The Math Forum   
Associated Topics:
High School History/Biography
High School Logic
High School Sets
Middle School History/Biography
Middle School Logic

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