



Bowditch, Nathaniel 
1794 ALS from the eminent US mathematician, founder of modern maritime navigation, 1st US insurance actuary, sending treatises on algebra, astronomy and others 

Description: 17731838) Early US mathematician remembered for work on ocean navigation. Credited as founder of modern maritime navigation; his book The New American Practical Navigator, 1st pub. 1802, is still carried aboard every US Navy vessel. Born in Salem, Mass., indentured at 12 for 9 years as bookkeeping apprentice to a ship chandler. At 14 he began to study algebra, taught himself calculus at 16. He taught himself Latin in 1790 and French in 1792 so he could read works such as Isaac Newton's Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica. He found thousands of errors in John Hamilton Moore's The New Practical Navigator; at 18, he copied all the mathematical papers found in the Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Among his many significant scientific contributions would be a translation of PierreSimon de Laplace's M¨¦canique c¨¦leste, lengthy work on mathematics and theoretical astronomy. In 1795, he went to sea on the 1st of 4 voyages as ship's clerk and captain's writer; his 5th was as master and part owner of a ship. While at sea, Bowditch became intensely interested in mathematics involved in celestial navigation. He recomputed all of Moore's tables, rearranged and expanded the work. He contacted US publisher Edmund Blunt who asked him to correct and revise the 3rd edition on his 5th voyage. Bowditch decided to write his own book, and to "put down in the book nothing I can't teach the crew." On that trip, it is said that the entire crew of 12, including the cook, became competent to take and calculate lunar observations and plot the correct position of the ship. In 1802, Blunt published the 1st edition of Bowditch's American Practical Navigator, which became the Western Hemisphere shipping industry standard for the next 150 years. The US Hydrographic Office bought the copyright in 1866, since then in continuous publication with regular revisions to keep it current; to this day mariners refer to it simply as ¡°Bowditch.¡± Returned to Salem 1803, resumed mathematical studies and entered insurance business. Harvard awarded him an honorary Master of Arts degree 1802. In 1804, he became America's 1st insurance actuary as President of Essex Fire and Marine Insurance Company in Salem. His mathematical and astronomical work led to election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences 1799 and the American Philosophical Society 1809. He declined the chair of mathematics and physics at Harvard 1806, and similar offers from the US Military Academy and the University of Virginia. He wrote on his observations of the moon published 1804 and naval charts of several harbors, including Salem (1806). He published a study of a meteor explosion 1807, 3 papers on the orbits of comets (1815, 1818, 1820) and a study of the Lissajous figures created by motion of a pendulum suspended from two points 1815. He translated 1st 4 volumes of Laplace's Trait¨¦ de m¨¦canique c¨¦leste 1818; publication ws delayed for many years, and he continued to work on it with Benjamin Peirce, adding commentaries that doubled its length. Elected to Royal Societies of Edinburgh and London and Royal Irish Academy by 1819. Left Essex Fire and Marine Insurance Company 1823 to become actuary for the Massachusetts Hospital Life Insurance Co. in Boston, serving as an investment manager for wealthy individuals who made their fortunes at sea. His move to Boston involved transfer of 2,500+ books, 100 maps & charts, and 29 volumes of his own manuscripts.
Interesting mathematicsrelated content 12 x 7 1/2 ALS, Salem, Massachusetts, Dec from the 21yearold Bowditch, to Mr. (Moses) Dorman, sending (not here) "...Wallis Algebra, my manuscript treatise in algebra, another unbound on Fluxion [in Newton's notation, the derivative of a continuous function]...my treatise on mensuration [the branch of geometry that deals with the measurement of length, area, or volume] & astronomy." Bowditch regrets he cannot lend more books to Dorman owing to a shipping issue. Bowditch adds that he has "...no doubt that one of the books [on fluxion] will be pleasing to you after you have made progress in Algebraic Calculations." He apologizes for any errors Dorman may find, Bowditch having discovered some in his algebra, some of which have been corrected, and asks Dorman to correct any he might find. Address leaf on verso. With typescript.
Moses Dorman of Boxford, Mass. was a surveyor. John Wallis (16161703) English mathematician given partial credit for development of infinitesimal calculus. He was chief cryptographer for Parliament 164389 and, later, for the Royal Court. He is credited with introducing the symbol ¡Þ for infinity, and used 1/¡Þ for infinitesimal. In 1685, he published his "Treatise on Algebra", an important study of equations that he applied to the properties of conoids, shaped almost like a cone. Asteroid 31982 johnwallis was named after him.
Condition: Good, small area of loss at left and small seal hole, none affecting any content; bottom quarter is blank, folded for ease of image
Type:Letter
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