David Eugene Smith's autograph papers

We have split D E Smith's papers (somewhat arbitrarily) into a number of headings, and here we present a few of his autograph papers with a couple of sentences from each paper to indicate the flavour of the paper. These papers present letters by famous mathematicians that Smith collected during his travels. Other historical papers by Smith are on the page Smith's history papers and still others are on the Smith's obituaries/biographies page.


  1. Among My Autographs.
    Amer. Math. Monthly 28 (2) (1921), 64-65.

    (1) Delambre and the Founder of the Smithsonian Institution.
    Among my autograph letters are upwards of twenty written by Delambre, some of them containing the calculations made by him in the course of his survey for the metric system, and all of them giving evidence of the stirring times in which he lived. One of these letters possesses particular interest for American scientists, since it offers a subject for speculation as to the possible loss to our country of the Smithsonian Institution if it had not been written.

  2. Among My Autographs.
    Amer. Math. Monthly 28 (3) (1921), 121-123.

    (2) Dupin as Secretary of the Ionian Academy.
    Among the most interesting but by no means most scholarly of the French mathematicians of the first part of the nineteenth century was that melange of economist, politician, geometrician, and populariser of science, Pierre-Charles-François Dupin (1784-1873). To the mathematician he is chiefly known as the favourite pupil of Monge and as his biographer ...

    (3) Picard and Cassini.
    Scientific letters more than two hundred years old are becoming rare. They exist in the museums and great libraries, particularly in Europe, but every year it is becoming more difficult to secure them for private collections. One of the most valuable, of those which I have, came into my possession recently, and is of particular interest because of the men concerned and because it contains the results of certain important astronomical observations. The letter was written at Brest on October 2, 1679, by Jean Picard, and is addressed to "Monsieur Cassini, a l'observatoire Royal au faus-bourg St Jaques. A Paris."

  3. Among My Autographs.
    Amer. Math. Monthly 28 (4) (1921), 166-168.

    (4) Monge and the American Colonies.
    A mathematician hearing the name of Gaspard Monge (1746-1818) would naturally and properly connect it with the science of descriptive geometry to which he was the first noteworthy contributor. ... A considerable number of his letters, now in my possession, tell more or less of this story, but there are two official documents in the collection, signed by him, which show some little interest in the new world.

    (5) Descartes's Appreciation of Huygens the Elder.
    After Descartes had served in the wars, part of the time in the army of Maurice, Prince of Orange, and part of the time under Maximilian, Duke of Bavaria, he decided to devote his life to scholarly pursuits.

  4. Among my Autographs.
    Amer. Math. Monthly 28 (5) (1921), 207-209.

    (6) The Threatened Loss of the Second Edition of Montucla's History of Mathematics.
    The period of the French Revolution was not favourable to scientific work ... It was during this period that Montucla (1725-1799), then upwards of seventy years of age, interested the astronomer La Lande (1732-1807) to prepare the second edition of the Histoire des Mathématiques which had appeared nearly half a century earlier. ...

    (7) Monge the Lesser.
    It often happens, in the reading of history, that individuals who would naturally stand out with some prominence are obscured by the overshadowing of identical names. ... One of the letters which I have and which bears the name of Monge illustrates this fact. It is in itself of little consequence, but if Gaspard Monge had not been the genius that he was, his brother Louis might have been remembered.

  5. Among my Autographs.
    Amer. Math. Monthly 28 (6/7) (1921), 254-255.

    (8) Francoeur Describes a King.
    Francoeur, whose chief lines of interest lay in the fields of applied mathematics, was born in 1773 and died in 1849. ...

    (9) Le Verrier and the Cost of Living.
    It is consoling, in these days when the cost of living has risen far more rapidly than academic stipends, and when the family budget has assumed a new interest in university circles, to know that others, and those far greater than ourselves, have had to face the same unpleasant problem.

  6. Among my Autographs.
    Amer. Math. Monthly 28 (8/9) (1921), 303-305.

    (10) Delambre Aids in Freeing Spencer Stanhope.
    Not only was Delambre influential in securing the release of the founder of the Smithsonian Institution from prison in Hamburg, as stated in a preceding article, and thus in an indirect way in the establishing of the Institution itself, but he was of service to British science and art in performing a similar service for Spencer Stanhope, a young member of the famous Stanhope family and one who at that time gave much promise in antiquarian research. ...

    (11) Voltaire and Mathematics.
    Of those who admire that greatest champion of popular liberty in the eighteenth century, it is not probable that one in a thousand connects Voltaire's name with the science of mathematics. Perhaps it should be so, since the candle that he placed at the altar of science was dimmed by the great lights which he set before his shrines erected to literature and to political justice. And yet there was no man living in France in his time who did so much to make the philosophy of Newton known to the literati of Paris as this same Voltaire.

  7. Among My Autographs.
    Amer. Math. Monthly 28 (10) (1921), 368-370.

    (12) The Marquise Du Chastellet.
    ... Voltaire sends by the Marquise du Chastellet (to adopt her own spelling of the name) his affectionate compliments to some one whom we do not know. ...

    (13) Cassini Completes the Great Survey of France.
    The first noteworthy attempt at measuring the earth, made in modern times was that of Jean Fernel, about 1528. ... Jean Picard carried on an elaborate system of triangulation ... This meridian was extended by Jean-Dominique Cassini (Cassini I) in 1701 and his work was continued by his son, Jacques, the results being published in Paris in 1720 and serving to set on foot the elaborate surveys which finally determined the spheroidal shape of the earth.

  8. Among My Autographs.
    Amer. Math. Monthly 28 (11/12) (1921), 430-435.

    (14) Maupertuis and Frederick the Great.
    Among those whom Frederick the Great called to his court for the purpose of accomplishing what the Ptolemies had done for Alexandria, the caliphs for Baghdad, and the Medici for Florence, there were a few scientists and literati of genius, and still more of near ability. Of the latter, Maupertuis is perhaps the best known. ...

    (15) The Paradoxer and Deparcieux.
    Antoine Deparcieux. (to adopt his own spelling) was one of the leaders among the scholars of France who devoted their attention to applied mathematics in the middle of the eighteenth century. ...

    (16) A Letter of Gassendi's Written in 1633.
    Although Pierre Gassendi was best known for his work in astronomy, he was one of the brilliant circle of mathematicians which was making France the scientific centre of the world in the first half of the seventeenth century. ...

    (17) A Letter from Bouillaud to Hevelius, 1666.
    Among my autograph letters of the seventeenth century, one of the most interesting was written by Bouillaud to Hevelius.

  9. Among My Autographs.
    Amer. Math. Monthly 29 (1) (1922), 14-16.

    (18) Sylvester as a Poet.
    The natural relation of the mathematical to the poetical mind has been observed so often as to make it hardly worth while to comment upon it. ... that interesting character, Professor Sylvester, would naturally be considered -- not because they represent a high type of imaginative literature, but because they illustrate an interesting type of mind. ...

    (19) Lewis Carroll as a Critic.
    To those who have read Alice in Wonderland (and who has not?) or Mr Stuart Collingwood's Life of Lewis Carroll (which everyone should do), personal letters of Mr Dodgson can hardly fail to be of interest.

  10. Among My Autographs.
    Amer. Math. Monthly 29 (3) (1922), 114-116.

    (20) Babbage Visits Mme Laplace.
    ... Although we commonly think of Babbage with relation to his calculating engine (part of which, curiously enough, found its way to the Dudley Observatory at Albany), he held the chair of Lucasian professor of mathematics at Cambridge, and contributed worthily to the science of astronomy, to higher algebra, and to physics. In 1840 he was in Paris, and M. Alexis Bouvard (1767-1843) took him to see the widow of Laplace. ...

    (21) De Morgan and the Libri Controversy.
    If ever there was an eccentric genius in mathematics, and one who scattered his energies so recklessly as to render notable success in any one line impossible, that man was Augustus De Morgan (1806-1871).

  11. Among My Autographs.
    Amer. Math. Monthly 29 (4) (1922), 157-158.

    (22) Sir David Brewster and the Stereoscope.
    To students of mathematics Sir David Brewster (1781-1868) is best known for his Life of Newton (1828, greatly enlarged in 1855); to the physicist he is best known for his work in optics; and to the average citizen he is not known at all, although to him is due the kaleidoscope (1816), the major part of the invention of the stereoscope, and probably the first suggestions of the opera glass. ....

    (23) Clifford's Genius Shown as a Boy.
    Newton's remark that if Cotes had lived "we might have known something" may also be applied to the case of William Kingdon Clifford, one of the most promising of the British mathematicians of his day. ...

  12. Among my Autographs.
    Amer. Math. Monthly 29 (5) (1922), 209-210.

    (24) Sir William Rowan Hamilton and the Early Days of Quaternions.
    It is well known that Sir William Rowan Hamilton (1805-1865) was one of the world's infant prodigies. Professor Alexander Macfarlane tells us of his considerable advancement in arithmetic at the age of three, of his ability to read Latin, Greek, and Hebrew at the age of five, and of his intimate familiarity with Italian, Sanskrit, and Arabic at the age of ten. At twelve he was contesting with Zerah Colburn, the American "calculating boy," and at sixteen he was reading Laplace's Mécanique Celeste and pointing out an error in the work of the great French master.

  13. Among My Autographs.
    Amer. Math. Monthly 29 (7) (1922), 253-255.

    (25) Montucla's Closing Years.
    The little that we know about the great men of our varied spheres of interest and the careless surmises that we make as to their lives are evident whenever we look even slightly below the surface that lies open to the world. Anyone who reads an ordinary biographical sketch of Montucla, for example, gains an impression of a man who was born, who wrote the first great history of mathematics, and who died in the fullness of years. In an earlier article in this series I have called attention to a little side-light thrown upon his life by a note from his collaborator Lalande. It seems worth the effort, however, to call further attention to his closing years by publishing a portion of a letter, now in my collection and written to some unnamed friend, which gives a nearer view of these last years of one whose portraits show as a well-fed "gentleman of the old school," bland, placid, content with the world, and appreciative of the praise that this same world had bestowed upon him.

  14. Among My Autographs.
    Amer. Math. Monthly 29 (8) (1922), 297-300.

    (26) Burckhardt on Modern Teaching.
    The number of times the teaching of mathematics has been reformed and the general similarity of view of the reformers are always interesting to the student of the history of the subject. Every day, in educational circles, theories are launched forth that have been common property so long that it is not to be wondered that, in certain schools, the history of education is frowned upon ostensibly because "we must face the future" but really because the makers of these theories fear the revelations of the past. One of our perennial discoveries is that mathematics needs to have the waste material eliminated, that the pupil should study only those parts that he will use, and that the best place for this is in some form of laboratory. ...

    (27) Burckhardt and the Eternal Problem of Publication.
    Among my autographs is a letter written by Burckhardt (1773-1825) in 1814 showing the trouble he was having with his factor table, and it reads not unlike dozens of communications of the present day.

  15. Among My Autographs.
    Amer. Math. Monthly 29 (9) (1922), 340-343.

    (28) De Moivre Expresses Himself.
    Of all the mathematicians who added to the reputation of England in the closing years of Newton's life, no one arouses a more sympathetic interest than Abraham De Moivre, author of the well-known Doctrine of Chances, of the even more notable Miscellanea Analytica, of a work on annuities, and one on series, and of various monographs on geometry and the Newtonian calculus.


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JOC/EFR April 2015

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http://www-history.mcs.st-andrews.ac.uk/Extras/SmithAutographPapers.html