John Napier, the originator of logarithms, was a Scottish mathematician and physicist. He’s also credited with popularizing the decimal point in arithmetic and mathematics. He was fascinated by astronomy and theology, in addition to mathematics. He was a devout Protestant who was loud and uncompromising in his relations with the Church of Rome, and as a result, he frequently found himself at the center of religious strife. Except for the fact that he was the son of a Scottish landowner and official and had a privileged childhood, little is known about his early life. He was schooled privately at home for a few years as a member of the nobility before being sent to St Salvator’s College, St Andrews. It was here that he developed a strong interest in theology, however he did not gain a thorough understanding of mathematics until later. He dropped out of college before completing his degree for unexplained reasons, and it is assumed that he continued his education at another institution. He eventually took over the management of his estates and took up mathematics as a pastime. His creation of logarithms is recognized as his most significant contribution to the science.
Childhood and Adolescence
John Napier was born at Merchiston Tower, Edinburgh, Scotland, on February 1, 1550. Sir Archibald Napier of Merchiston Castle was a wealthy landowner, and his mother, Janet Bothwell, was the daughter of Francis Bothwell, Lord of Session, a politician and judge.
Joannes Neper was his Latinized name, and he was also known as Jhone Neper.
He obtained his early education at home from private tutors, as was common for young boys of his social standing. When he was 13, he was transferred to St Salvator’s College in St Andrews for formal instruction.
While at college, he developed an interest in theology, and his devotion to the faith dominated his life until the end. However, he does not appear to have spent much time in the college and appears to have dropped out before completing his degree.
Little is known about how he received his maths education. On the recommendation of his maternal uncle, young John is thought to have traveled to Mainland Europe to continue his education. He most certainly studied at the University of Paris and spent time in Italy and the Netherlands.
Later the Years
He returned to Scotland in 1571, at the age of 21, after finishing his studies. In 1572, when he was still a young man, the majority of the Napier family’s lands were entrusted to him.
In 1574, he also purchased a castle in Gartness. He got right to work administering the estates. He also got married and started raising a family during this time.
He became immersed in mathematical study in his spare time, in addition to managing his estates. He was also a devout Protestant who was involved in theological conflicts at the time, which hampered his scientific endeavors.
He published ‘Plaine Discovery of the Whole Revelation of Saint John’ in 1594, a religious book aimed at influencing current political events. The text has a significant historical significance in Scottish church history.
After his father died in 1608, John Napier and his family relocated to Merchiston Castle in Edinburgh, where he lived for the rest of his life.
In the text ‘Mirifici logarithmorum canonis descriptio,’ initially published in Latin in 1614, he discussed logarithms. An English translation of the text was produced two years later, translated by Edward Wright.
There were 57 pages of explanations and 90 pages of tables of numbers relating to natural logarithms in the book. He also addressed spherical trigonometry theorems, which became known as Napier’s Circular Parts Rules.
His creation of logarithms brought him a lot of fame. In 1615, eminent English mathematician Henry Briggs paid a visit to Napier, and the two men collaborated on the notion, with Briggs developing a new table that made performing calculations by hand faster and easier. Logarithms have since been used in a variety of subjects, including astronomy, dynamics, and other branches of physics.
In 1617, he published ‘Rabdologiae, seu Numerationis per Virgulas Libri Duo,’ in which he described an ingenious way of multiplying and dividing with little rods on a contraption known as Napier’s bones because of the ivory rods’ bone-like appearance.
Major Projects of John Napier
John Napier is credited with inventing what is now known as the Napierian or Naperian logarithm. The natural logarithm is commonly referred to as the word. His creation of logarithms paved the way for significant advances in not only mathematics, but also astronomy, dynamics, and other physical fields.
He invented what became known as Napier’s bones, a manually operated calculating apparatus. The device might be used to compute numbers’ products and quotients. The method was developed using a combination of Arab mathematics techniques and lattice multiplication.
Personal History and Legacy
In 1572, John Napier married Elizabeth, the daughter of James Stirling, the 4th Laird of Keir and Cadder. They had two children together. In 1579, Elizabeth died.
He then married Agnes Chisholm and had 10 additional children with her.
He died at Edinburgh, Scotland, on April 4, 1617.
Estimated Net Worth
The estimated net worth of John Napier is about $1.9 Million.