Robert Recorde – Maths Hero

Robert Recorde is not a name that will be known to most people particularly outside the country of Wales.  His career and achievements were however remarkable and he has left an extremely important legacy to mathematics.

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He was born in Tenby, Wales in 1510 and throughout his life became a doctor, astrologer and even became the controller of the Royal Mint at one point.  However it is his legacy to Maths which he should be best remembered for by introducing the “=” and “+” signs to the language in the mid 16th Century, which of course are still used to this day.

Recorde was the founder of the English School of Mathematics and was one of the very first people who tried to improve the accessibility of mathematics.   One major step was to produce mathematical texts actually written in English at a time when the majority of important texts were all written in Greek and Latin.

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To honour his many achievements the London Mathematical Society sponsored the events in his hometown of Tenby based in the local museum.  The event which was open until the end of October, also contained a series of lectures by various experts and a one man show about mathematical history designed to help children learn about maths and it’s history.

His introduction of the mathematical notation everyone uses today will of course always be his most lasting legacy, it helped move Britain from a medieval approach to maths to the modern day use of decimal notation and of course the concept of zero.

For the slightly more mathematically minded, Recorde also brought widespread use of algebra and also devised the method of extracting the square root of numbers.  Throughout the exhibition there were also a variety of computer based presentations and slides similar to produced by this online slideshow video maker.

It is wonderful that organisations such as the LMS are able to sponsor and make these events possible without them many people would probably completely unaware of the important contribution made by the Welshman Robert Record.

Further Reading: Info

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