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Free course

John Napier

Free statement of participation on completion
John Napier

This free course looks at Scotsman John Napier (1550-1617) and his invention which radically altered the course of mathematics. Napier dabbled in mathematics for over 40 years and near the end of his life he introduced his tables of logarithms which drastically reduced the work needed to do complicated calculations, such as those required in astronomy and navigation. Napier’s ‘excellent brief rules’ were quickly adopted and improved upon.

This OpenLearn course provides a sample of Level 2 study in Mathematics.

Course learning outcomes

After studying this course, you should be able to:

  • give examples of factors that motivated Napier to invent calculation aids

  • understand how logarithms can turn multiplications into additions

  • give examples of how Napier's work became known to mathematicians, astronomers, and navigators

  • appreciate that presenting mathematical ideas in different ways can affect how easily (or not!) they are understood.

First Published: 09/08/2012

Updated: 15/03/2016

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