Person: Chuquet, Nicolas
Nicolas Chuquet was a French mathematician who wrote the earliest French algebra book.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- For example in the registers of 1485 and 1487 he is described as "Nicolas Chuquet, algoriste".
- Master Nicolas appears in all the registers which remain for this part of the city until 1485; he is taxed about two livres for the emperor and one for the city.
- In the register of taxes for the city in 1485 appears in the same street and with the same neighbours "Nicolas Chuequet, algorist", taxed at 10 sous.
- The following register, relating to the year 1487, contains the indication "Nicolas Chuquet, algorist, 15 sous".
- The following year (1488), the tax register for the emperor indicates "the heirs Nicolas Chuquet, algorist, 23 sous".
- The description of Chuquet as an 'escripvain' means that he earned his living as a copyist or writing master.
- It would appear therefore that Chuquet initially set up in business in Lyon around 1480 to supply the need for copying, translating and drawing up commercial and legal documents.
- Evidence of Italian links in his writings could indicate that he had visited Italy, but it is equally possible that these links come from the large Italian community living in Lyon at the time Chuquet lived there.
- Although Chuquet's text Le Triparty en la science des nombres Ⓣ(The science of numbers in three parts) is a remarkable work, sadly it had relatively little influence on the development of algebra and the number systems since it was lost until Aristide Marre rediscovered it and published it in 1880.
- Chuquet's book is the earliest French algebra book although for some time La Roche was thought to have written the first French algebra.
- Chasles pointed out, in 1841, that La Roche's work held this distinction, but also pointed to a lost work of Chuquet as being earlier.
- When Chuquet's manuscript was found it was seen at once that La Roche had copied large parts of Chuquet's Le Triparty en la science des nombres Ⓣ(The science of numbers in three parts).
- We are left wondering, therefore, what connection La Roche had with Chuquet.
- We know, because Aristide Marre had already noted it, that the manuscript of Chuquet's works ...
- Under these conditions, one can suppose that Chuquet taught him arithmetic and the other mathematical sciences; perhaps even, if one gives to "escripvain" the meaning of tutor, it is he who taught him to read and write.
- Chuquet finished it in 1484, ten years before Luca Pacioli published Summa de arithmetica, geometria, proportioni et proportionalita Ⓣ(About arithmetic, geometry, proportion and proportionality).
- Chuquet's book would remain in manuscript for 400 years.
- Of French mathematicians that Chuquet would be familiar with, the most significant was Nicole Oresme who predates Chuquet by approximately 100 years.
- L'Huilleur has shown that Chuquet had access to at least one manuscript of Oresme.
- Work of the Arabic mathematicians had been transmitted to Europe beginning with Fibonacci in 1202, with which Chuquet is familiar, but it does not seem possible that Chuquet could possibly have known about more recent Arabic work such as al-Kashi's The Key to Arithmetic (1427).
- Notice here that Fibonacci has only nine figures while Chuquet has included zero and so has ten.
- Chuquet also seems to be treating zero as both a "no value" number and as an empty place holder.
- Chuquet wants to be free so that he can deal more broadly with numbers.
- Chuquet does not claim originality here, but says that earlier writers have worked with the "thing" or "cosa".
- Note that Chuquet uses 'denomination' where we would say 'exponent'.
- Other things of interest is Chuquet's book is a graphical proof that 220 and 284 are amicable numbers, i.e. each is the sum of the factors of the other.
- There is nothing new here but Chuquet's discussion is interesting since he seems to consider the more common types of error made in these calculations.
- Finally let us look at how La Roche produced the first French printed work on algebra, Larismethique Ⓣ(Arithmetic) (1520), by using the manuscript of Chuquet's Le Triparty en la science des nombres Ⓣ(The science of numbers in three parts).
- Marre discovered that the printed work of 1520 by Estienne de la Roche contained large fragments that were literally copied from Chuquet's manuscript of the 'Triparty'.
- Especially on the 'Appendice', which contains the solution to a large number of problems, Marre writes repeatedly that it is a literal copy of Chuquet.
- However, he fails to mention that the structure of the text of de la Roche, his solution methods and symbolism differs significantly from Chuquet.
- We provide an in-depth comparison of some problems solved by the so-called 'regle de la quantite' by Chuquet with those of de la Roche.
- We further report on the surprising finding that Christoff Rudolff's solution to linear problems by means of the second unknown in his 'Behend vnnd Hubsch Rechnung' of 1525 depends on Chuquet and de la Roche.
Born 1445, Paris, France. Died 1488, Lyon, France.
View full biography at MacTutor
Thank you to the contributors under CC BY-SA 4.0!
Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive