A Joint Meeting of the James Clerk Maxwell Society and the British Society for the History of Mathematics in celebration of the 400th Anniversary of the publication of John Napier’s Mirifici Logarithmorum Canonis Descriptio.

Friday 4th April 2014 at Clerk Maxwell House

14 India Street, Edinburgh, EH3 6EZ.





This is the Napier 400 Memorial compilation as of: February 6th , 2017. It is worth recounting the story so far.

Joachim Fischer and Denis Roegel already started in 2010 to sound out UK based mathematicians about organising a Napier 400 Memorial event which fell on deaf ears. The same fate befell my first attempt in 2012.  So we were particularly pleased when in July 2013 we received a request from Erik Vynckier to put the historic aspects surrounding the anniversary of Logarithms into context and participate in a planned conference on: "High Performance Computation in Finance and Insurance".
After talking to potential contributors from the German speaking community, a list of interested participants emerged. This supplemented the preparations already started by David Forfar and The British Society for the History of Mathematics (BSHM). This resulted in the “Programme” for April 4th 2014 detailed below. On that day Richard Simpson guided delegates through the programme in Maxwell House and onto the Napier University venue, where Charlie Napier and his wife Patricia took over the baton.

I wish to acknowledge here the considerable work undertaken by all speakers who transcribed their MS-PowerPoint presentations into full manuscripts. I regret that so far publishing such manuscripts as printed Proceedings is not possible. However, after compiling all the contributions it is possible, apart from some videos, to share them here as Internet-hosted web pages.


My special thanks go to David Rance who supported me in the project not only with his invaluable internet expertise.

Fortunately, besides the very positive response from some authors, additional contributors also agreed to share their Napier-related manuscripts. These can be found in the section: “Napier 400 Extra Contributions”.

Incidentally 2017 is another Napier anniversary year. This time it is 400 years since John Napier (1550 - 1617) published his: “Rabdologiae seu numerationis per virgulas libri duo”.

Klaus Kühn

Please be aware that  this compilation is for your private use only.



9.00 - 9.30 Arrive; Richard Simpson, Hon Sec BSHM (bshm@lagonda.org.uk)

9.30 - 9.35 Introduction by Sir Michael Atiyah, FRS, FRSE, Past President of
the Royal Society and the Royal Society of Edinburgh

9.35 - 10.05 Prof. Dr. Joachim Fischer (Germany)
‘Napier revisited or A new look on the computation of Napier's logarithms’

10.05 - 10.35 Dr. Klaus Kuehn (Germany)
‘Logarithms – a Journey of their Tables to all over the World’

10.35 - 10.55 Professor Michael Williams (Canada)
‘Napier's bones: their history and later developments’

10.55 - 11.15 Dr. Steve Russ (Warwick, UK)
‘More of a Lark than a Labour’: Napier’s Chessboard Abacus

11.15 - 11.40 Break for Coffee

11.40 - 12.10 Dr. Gerlinde Faustmann (Austria)
'Austrian Authors of Tables of Logarithms around 1800'



This meeting is ‘free’. The capacity of the various venues and the number of
seats on the bus limits attendance to about 45 people. Pre-booking is therefore
mandatory and admission ‘on the day’ is unlikely to be possible. Early booking
is therefore strongly advised. 

12.10 -12.40 Prof. Martin Campbell-Kelly (Warwick, UK)
'Babbage's Table of Logarithms (1827)' no manuscript

12.40 - 2.00 Break for lunch

2.00 - 2.40 Dr. Ulf Hashagen (Germany)
‘Realising Babbage’s Dream – the 1910 computation of logarithms using a
difference engine’ - no manuscript

2.40 - 3.10 Prof. Alex Craik (St. Andrews, UK)
'Sang, Knott and Spence on logarithmic and other tables’

3.10 - 3.20 Dr. Tayce Phillipson (National Museum of Scotland - NMS)
'Introduction to the Napier Exhibition at National Museum of Scotland'

3.20 - 3.40 Bus to ‘Napier Exhibition’ at NMS

3.40 - 4.10 At ‘Napier Exhibition’

4.10 - 4..30 Bus to Napier Tower

4.30 - 5.00 Charles Napier (descendant of John Napier). Guided tour.
‘History of the actual person John Napier’

5.00 Return to Clerk Maxwell House (TBC)

Richard Simpson: Meeting Report Summary (published after the meeting)

Napier 400 Extra Contributions

Relevant References and Links