Sunday, September 2, 2018

Practical Geometry - what our ancestors called this geometry

Practical Geometry.
It's what our ancestors called these diagrams I draw.

 Here is Peter Nicholson who wrote about Practical Geometry. His writings make clear that geometry was once an expected and necessary part of construction, used both by the designer and the artisan.

His first book, The Carpenter's New Guide, published in London in 1792.

He begins with a Preface, some of which I quoted in an earlier post:

Page 2 is copied here.

The use of geometry in construction was so accepted that Peter Nicholson waits until his third paragraph before he shares that geometry is useful in mathematics and science too.

By the time of his death in 1844, Nicholson had published 27 books in London, New York City, and Philadelphia.  More than 10 years later his books were still in print.

This portrait is in his updated book The New and Improved Practical Builder, published in 1837.

This time he writes a whole paragraph explaining Practical Geometry. Has he been asked to be more thorough? Have the new uses of geometry in science changed the perception of what geometry is? Have men become carpenters by necessity - especially in the New World - rather than by apprenticeship, and thus desire to educate themselves?

Here is the Introductory Chapter

The second paragraph describes the 2 branches of Geometry: Theoretical and Practical.
Now  the Theory of  Geometry is carefully described, including a reference to Euclid, but it is still one of the 2 branches of Geometry.
The other branch, Practical Geometry,
 allows "the architect to regulate his designs and the artisan to construct his lines". 

Later, on page vii, he writes, "There is no mechanical profession that does not derive considerable advantage from it."

first portrait: by James Green, 1816, now in the National Portrait Gallery, London
second portrait: the frontispiece of The New and Improved Practical Builder. Don't miss his compass.

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