Origin of the Term Logarithm
Date: 10/27/1999 at 21:16:51 From: Suzanne Subject: Where did the term "Logarithm" come from? Dr. Math, Hi. In my junior pre-calculus class, we have just recently started to study logarithms. Some of my fellow classmates, as well as myself, have been wondering where the term for logarithms came from. How did the term "logarithm" come to represent logarithms? We've asked my teacher, but she's not sure of the answer. Please help! Sincerely, Suzanne
Date: 10/27/1999 at 21:38:45 From: Doctor Jaime Subject: Re: Where did the term "Logarithm" come from? Hello The following is taken from Jeff Miller's page, Earliest Known Uses of Some of the Words of Mathematics (L): http://jeff560.tripod.com/l.html LOGARITHM was coined in Latin as logarithmus by John Napier (1550-1617) in 1614 in _Mirifici Logarithmorum Canonis descriptio_. The word appears in English in a letter of March 10, 1615, from Henry Briggs to James Ussher: "Napier, Lord of Markinston, hath set my Head and Hands a Work with his new and admirable Logarithms. I hope to see him this summer, if it please God, for I never saw a book which pleased me better or made me more wonder." In the _Constructio_, the phrase "artificial numbers" is used, rather than "logarithms." Napier offered no explanation for the term logarithm, but in the _Arithmetica logarithmica_ (1624), Briggs explains that the name came from their inventor because they exhibit numbers which preserve always the same ratio to one another. [Older English-language dictionaries pronounce logarithm with an unvoiced th, as in thick and arithmetic.] ---------------------------------------------------------------------- In _The Words of Mathematics_ - An Etymological dictionary of Mathematical Terms Used in English, Steven Schwartzman's writes: logarithm, often shortened to log (noun), logarithmic (adjective): from Greek logos "reckoning, ratio," and arithmos "number." A logarithm is literally a "reckoning number." The Indo-European root underlying Greek logos is leg- "to collect," while that underlying arithmos is ar- "to fit together," so that the word logarithm twice contains the notion of putting things together... [p. 128] Hope this helps. - Doctors Jaime and Sarah, The Math Forum http://mathforum.org/dr.math/
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