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Edmund Gunter (1581–1626)

  • Charles H. Cotter
Extract

The year 1981 marks the fourth centenary of the birth of Edmund Gunter who, during his relatively short life, played a dominant role in England in the advancement of navigation. Born in Hertfordshire, of Welsh parentage, Gunter was educated at Westminster School before entering Christchurch College, Oxford, where he graduated BA in 1603; MA in 1606; and BD in 1615, in which year he was presented to the living at St George's, Southwark.

As early as 1603 Gunter had written an account of a ‘New Projection of the Sphere’ which was circulated in manuscript among some of his mathematical acquaintances. This appears to have gained for him the friendship of Henry Briggs, the first Gresham Professor of Geometry and a brilliant mathematician best known for having been first to suggest a table of logarithms to base 10 – ‘common logarithms’, as they are now known.

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References
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1Napier, J. (1614). Mirifici Logarithmorum Canonis descriptio jusquc usus, in utraquc Trigonometric… Edinburgh.
2A manuscript copy of Logarithmorum Chilias Prima (The first thousand logarithms) was compiled by Briggs in 1616. This was published in the following year. It is a small work of a mere 16 pages giving logarithms to 14 places of decimals for each integral number from 1 to 1000. In 1624 Briggs published his Arithmetica Logarithmica. This gives logarithms of 30 chiliads and it includes the first printed description of common logarithms.
3Gunter's, work on logarithms, under the title Canon Triangulorum sive Tabulae Sinuum ct Tangentium Artificialum, was published in 1620. In the same year an English version also appeared: Canon of Triangles: or Tables of Artificial Sines and Tangents. These tables give logarithmic sines and tangents to seven places of decimals at intervals of one minute of arc.
4Wingate, E. (1624). L'usage de la Reigle de Proportion en l'Arithmetique et Gé'ometrique. Paris.
5Waters, D. W. (1958). The Art of Navigation in England in Elizabethan and Early Stuart Times. London.
6Given in Robertson, J. (1786). The Elements of Navigation: Containing Theory and Practice. London.
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The Journal of Navigation
  • ISSN: 0373-4633
  • EISSN: 1469-7785
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-navigation
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