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John Napier . By: Heather Banister.\_Napier.gif. Napier’s Life. John Napier was born in 1550 in Merchiston Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland. He was born into a wealthy family.

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john napier

John Napier

By: Heather Banister

napier s life
Napier’s Life
  • John Napier was born in 1550 in Merchiston Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland.
  • He was born into a wealthy family.
  • During this age, his name John Napier was commonly spelled JhoneNeper. This was how the language was back in the late 16th century.
school at a young age
School at a Young Age

When John was young, not much was known about him. One of the few known things was a letter from his uncle, the Bishop of Orkney, to his father, Archibald Napier. The letter read:

“ I pray you, schir, to send your son Jhone to the schuyllis; oyer to France or Flandaris; for he can leyrnaguid at hame, nor get naproffeitt in this maistperullousworlde ...”

school at a young age cont
School at a Young Age (cont…)

This letter is translated as:

“I pray you, sir, to send your son John to school; over to France or Flanders; for he cannot learn well at home nor get profit in this most perilous world - that he may be saved in it; - that he may seek honour and profit as I do not doubt that he will...”

He was educated at St Andrews University in 1563 at age 13! Sadly around this time, his mother passed away.

mid years
Mid -Years
  • About 1572, John got married to Elizabeth Stirling.
  • Also around this time he traveled to Italy and the Netherlands
  • John and Elizabeth had two children before she died.
  • John later married Agnes Chisholm and had ten more children.

John didn’t stay in school for a long time. Many think that he dropped out at an earlier age. His interest in mathematics started with astronomy. It gave him the idea that you could perform large calculations a simpler way. He spent over twenty years working on this theory.

  • The result of his work gave us logarithms.
  • He discovered exponential form so that things such as 8 can be written as 23.
  • Logarithms make large multiplication and division problems easier by making it addition and subtraction. When very large numbers are expressed as a logarithm, multiplication becomes the addition of exponents. For example 106 X 102 is the same as 108. This is easier than doing 1,000,000 x 100.
logarithms cont
Logarithms (cont…)
  • Basically logarithms are a simpler way to express exponents.
  • The bottom number of 108 is ten which is going to be the base power. The power number would be what your taking the log of. So this would be shown as Log108.
  • This also works for other problems that have different bases. Such as Log2 3.

( however doing logarithms to different bases was not fount till later)

other works
Other Works

John had many other accomplishment other than finding logarithms. He was also an author of many books such as Rabdologiaeand Plaine Discovery of the Whole Revelation of St. John. He also wrote about his findings. He wrote the bookA Description of the Admirable Table of Logarithmsto help show what he discovered.

a description of the admirable table of logarithms
A Description of the Admirable Table of Logarithms

The book contains many definitions and reason why he did his work that way.

  • “DefinitionA lineis said to increase equally, when the poynt describing the same, goeth forward equall spaces, in equall times, or moments.

Let A be a poynt, from which a line is to be drawne by the motion of another poynt, which let be B.Now in the first moment, let B moue from A to C.

a description of the admirable table of logarithms cont
A Description of the Admirable Table of Logarithms (cont…)

In the second mement form C to D. In the third moment from D to E, & so forth infinitely, describing the line ACDEF, &c. The spaces AC, CD, DE, EF, &c. And all the rest being equall, and described in equall moments (or times.) This line by the former definition shall be said to increase equally.”

2. “DefinitionA line is said to decrease proportionally into a shorter, when the poynt describing the same in æquall times, cutteth off parts continually of the same proportion to the lines from which they are cut off.

a description of the admirable table of logarithms cont1
A Description of the Admirable Table of Logarithms (cont…)

For examples sake. Let the line of the whole sine aZ be to bee diminished proportionally: let the poynt diminishing the same by his motion be b: and let the proportion of each part to the line from wch it is cut off, be as QR to QS.”

These are part of the first two definitions of the book, A Description of the Admirable Table of Logarithms, which was written by John Napier.

last days
Last Days

John Napier kept working on his discoveries till he died on April 4, 1617 in Edinburgh, Scotland.

His work has helped many other mathematicians such as Johann Bernoulli. These other men pursued Napier's work on logarithms to find other bases and so on.