Scottish fact of the week: John Napier, discoverer of logarithms

A statue of John Napier at Edinburgh Napier University's Craighouse campus

A statue of John Napier at Edinburgh Napier University's Craighouse campus

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THOUGH John Napier was a physicist, astronomer and astrologer, his most famous achievements were founded in his work as a mathematician.

Credited with the discovery of the logarithm, Napier’s work was both important and pragmatic.

John Napier

John Napier

A logarithm is an expression of the amount of times a fixed number (eg. 1,000) requires raising by its base (eg. 10). If 10 x 10 x 10 = 1,000, then the logarithm of 1,000 is 3.

He also paved the way for widespread use of decimal points in arithmetic and mathematics.

Moreover, he invented a type of abacus for multiplication called Napier’s Bones.

Merchiston Tower, the mathematician’s birthplace, is now part of the campus grounds at Edinburgh Napier University, the institution named after the polymath.

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