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Johann Christoph Heilbronner Publishes One of the Earliest Histories of a Science

Title page of Heilbronner's Historia
Creative Commons LicenseJeremy Norman Collection of Images - Creative Commons

In 1742 German mathematical historian and theologian Johann Christoph Heilbronner issued Historia matheseos universae a mundo condito ad seculum from Leipzig. Heilbronner’s work, of which an abbreviated German edition ("Erster Theil") was published in 1739, was the first to use the term “mathematical history.” It is one of the earliest histories of any science, predating Jean-Etienne Montucla's Histoire des mathématiques, which began publication in 1758. Perhaps mathematics was the first science to be studied historically since it was the first scientific subject required in all curricula—a requirement since the medieval quadrivium, and perhaps earlier. 

Heilbronner’s complete Latin edition, containing about 1000 pages (roughly 800 more pages than the abbreviated German edition) contains chapters on mathematics and its uses, 602 biographies of famous mathematicians, bio-bibliographies of mathematical textbook writers, a chapter on Chinese mathematics, and a special study of arithmetic, including sections on arithmetical writers and even arithmetical poetry and divination. Of particular interest is a section listing mathematical manuscripts in important Italian, French, German and British libraries; some of the materials cited here may no longer be extant

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