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Old Math Text

  1. Nov 5, 2013 #1
    I came across an old math book written in the 1930-40s on number theory. I became very impressed with the detail in which the book went into the subject. In comparison to the text books available currently, it consisted of mostly worded text.
    Does anyone know where I can get my hands on some old math text books in the subjects of algebra,calculus,ect.
    Are there any recommendations of books or author's I can explore?

    Sorry if this is the wrong area for this question.

    Last edited: Nov 5, 2013
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 5, 2013 #2


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  4. Nov 5, 2013 #3
    Cool I appreciate the feedback.
  5. Nov 5, 2013 #4
    There are lots of great old textbooks out there. If interested in Differential Equations I have certainly enjoyed Kell's 3rd edition from '47. It may not be the best for self learning but unlike current texts has some good practical problems which I suppose is to be expected from a Professor of Mathematics in the US Naval Academy.

    'Calculus Revised Edition' by Sherwood from the 40's and 50's also has some good Calc 1-3 problems and a few fun derivations.

    There is also of course Thompsons 'Calculus Made Easy' (which is not always that easy) but very thorough in many areas that modern textbooks are completely lacking in. His first edition was published in 1910, the second I believe in 1913 and the third came out sometime later in 1945 and was co-authored by a Mr. Brown primarily to bring in hyperbolic trig functions and make updates to some methods. It can be found easily and reprints are usually priced very reasonably.

    I recently picked up a copy of Max Borns 'Atomic Physics' (Modern Physics) 6th edition from 1935. I rather like the idea of learning a subject 'straight from the horses mouth' as they say. What I have read so far has been very enlightening!

    The thing with many old textbooks is they often have hidden treasures but the authors assume you really know your stuff leading up to the subject matter so can at times be challenging but that is how we get good at what we do :)
  6. Nov 6, 2013 #5

    Stephen Tashi

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    There are many interesting old math books available onlne by such authors as George Chyrstal, George Boole, Augustus DeMorgan. However, the old math books tend to be heavy on symbolic manipulations rather than worded text.

    If you are trying to progress in mathematics, it isn't a good idea to use old books as a refuge from mathematical abstraction. If you find modern texts too difficult then I can see consulting old books for hints - but you can spend 2 years studying an old book on a subject and know less than a student who has taken a (modern) one semester course in it. Abstraction is difficult but it is also powerful.
  7. Nov 6, 2013 #6


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    ^Have you read the books by George Chyrstal, George Boole, and Augustus DeMorgan? You really think students who read modern garbage books like Stewart are better off? Many older books are much better, more demanding, and more useful. The only thing the new books have going for them is pictures of people skydiving and surfing.
  8. Nov 6, 2013 #7


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    A few more nice older books are

    The new complete system of arithmetic, composed for the use of the citizens of the United States by Nicolas Pike
    Algebra: An Elementary Text-Book for the Higher Classes of Secondary Schools and for Colleges by George Chrystal
    The Thirteen Books of the Elements by Euclid
    An introduction to the theory of infinite series by Thomas John I'Anson Bromwich
  9. Nov 7, 2013 #8

    Stephen Tashi

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    I've read significant parts of all the them - and also parts of Oliver Heaviside's Electrical Papers, which is another interesting old book.

    I'm not familiar with Stewart. Is that a calculus text?

    The "modern" books I'm familiar with don't have pictures of people skydiving or surfing, but my idea of modern is post 1950's and I stopped keeping up with calculus texts in the 1980's.

    My point is that a person who says something like "I don't like all this stuff about sets and mappings, so I'll study math from this 1920's book" isn't really getting a good education.
  10. Nov 7, 2013 #9


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    Stewart is a popular calculus book right now. It is not very good, though there are worse books. Oliver Heaviside was an interesting guy. His insights into gravitoelectromagnetism, divergent series, operational methods, an generalized functions are very impressive. I think reading his work is more of historical interest. Other older books are still useful as text books. Who said "I don't like all this stuff about sets and mappings, so I'll study math from this 1920's book"? There are other reason to read older books. I can relate to some student frustration with abstraction though. Abstraction should make the methods easier to understand and more powerful. Many books introduce a lot of jargon and only use it in a superficial way. If an author is going to introduce categories, sets, quotients, or whatever they should do something interesting with it. I understand why students sometimes think abstraction is pointless, there book is an example of pointless abstraction. The trouble with selecting books is limited time. If there was more time we could just read all the books. Whichever books we pick we will end up reading some useless things and missing some things we would like to know. The best thing to do is try to have a little variety so we can see the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches.
  11. Nov 8, 2013 #10
    I completely agree with this, and I would like to add my vote too that Stewart is garbage.

    I agree with that, although some old texts go into far greater detail about the foundations which many modern text books take for granted.

    Let's take 'e' for example. The standard college text for Cal 1-3 is James Stewart, aside from a fairly confusing calculus based derivation (keep in mind this text is targeted to students learning this material for the first time) he doesn't elaborate much further on the subject.

    Thompsons 'Calculus Made Easy', derives 'e' by example from simple interest to compounding, then geometrically illustrates his point, next he brings 'e' out from binomial theorem, finally using the last technique to show why the derivative of e^x is e^x.

    This 100+ year old text has many concepts written in a way a Calc 1 student can comprehend and does an excellent job of making sure the reader has a strong understanding of the 'basics' instead of just blindly glossing over some of the most important concepts we use in mathematics. I have been spending much time sifting through old text books since first opening Thompson and there are wonderful tidbits in nearly all of them.

    Once again I would like to reiterate, Stewart sucks!!!
    That feels better :)
  12. Nov 8, 2013 #11
    I totally agree with this comment. Im currently towards the end of calc 1 now and I feel the great majority of students that struggle are doing so because the book we use (stewart) does not go into detail of the basics.
    I am a person (like others) that has to know everything about a subject in detail to succeed in a subject. Thats why I asked for the older text to to use as a references. They go into greater detail which is what books like Stewarts collection of confusion does not do. As we all agree to.
  13. Nov 8, 2013 #12
    Some 'mathematicians' will disagree but this is the best way to approach these subjects although you are talking about a tremendous amount of material to cover. Let me explain,

    You will quickly notice many of these classes 'gloss over' much of the material simply because there is not enough time in a standard semester to cover these topics in full detail and rather than cut back or extend the number of credits for these subjects the mindset is one of 'pile more crap on' and have students just 'accept' the foundations of mathematics without showing where they come from. I find this approach revolting.

    If you are serious about trying to 'know everything' about your subject I suggest you start by using your copy of Stewart's for tinder and instead pick up an older version of Anton's text (3rd edition is good). It's a solid modern text that covers all the same topics as Stewart except it is useful.
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