Thursday, December 13, 2018

New publication announcement: "Computation in Medieval Western Europe".

I've got a new publication to announce! (It actually came out a week or two ago, but I only got my author's copy on Tuesday, so no author selfie before then.) It's a book chapter in Sven Ove Hansson, ed., Technology and Mathematics: Philosophical and Historical Investigations, on "Computation in Medieval Western Europe":


Practices that fall under the broad umbrella of ‘computation’ in the western European Middle Ages tend to be goal-oriented and directed at specific purposes, such as the computation of the date of Easter, the calculation of velocities, and the combinatorics of syllogisms and other logical arguments. In spite of this practical bent, disparate computational practices were increasingly built upon theoretical foundations. In this chapter, we discuss the theoretical principles underlying three areas of computation: computistics and the algorithms employed in computistics, as well as algorithms more generally; arithmetic and mathematical calculation, including the calculation of physical facts and theorems; and (possible) physical implementations of computing mechanisms.

It was an interesting paper chapter to write because it stretched the boundaries of my comfort zones -- I had to read up a lot on calendrical computation! (Which is super interesting.) But it's a fascinating exercise, to pick a modern concept, such as computation, and then see what, if anything, counts as its historical precursor.

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