Person: Ries, Adam
Adam Ries was a German mathematician who published one of the first widely available arithmetic texts.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- (that gives according to Adam Ries) when doing arithmetic.
- From the list of references attached to this article, which is only a small selection of the vast amount of material concerning Ries, it will be seen that there remains a very considerable level of interest in this mathematician.
- Adam Ries's name appears with a number of different spellings, a common phenomenon with people living around this time who were certainly not consistent with their own spelling of their names.
- Certainly Contz Ries was well-off.
- Sturtz's home was a famous meeting place of the Humanists and Ries made many useful contacts there.
- It was Sturtz who gave Ries a collection of manuscripts on algebra and arithmetic which had been given to him by Johannes Widman.
- Ries wrote his first two books while in Erfurt: these are Rechnung auff der linihen Ⓣ(Reckoning with lines) (1518) and Rechnung auff der linihen und Federn Ⓣ(Reckoning with lines and springs) (1522).
- In 1523 Ries became 'Bergbeamter' (engineer and inspector of mines) in Annaberg, which is a centre for the silver-mining region of Saxonia, and he also taught mathematics there.
- In the same year of 1525, Ries took the necessary oath to become a citizen of the city.
- Three of the sons, Adam, Abraham and Jacob, became mathematicians working in Annaberg, while Isaac, one of other two sons, became a 'Visierer' (weights and measures master) in Leipzig.
- Returning to the year 1525, this was when Ries became 'Rezessschreiber' (recorder of mining production) in Annaberg, then in 1532 'Gegenschreiber' (bookkeeper recording of ownership of mining shares) and, from 1533 to 1539, 'Zehnter auf dem Geyer' (financial administrator for mining in the district).
- Ries's name appears in lists of Lutherans living in Annaberg made in 1530 so the arrival of the Reformation in Annaberg in 1539 must have helped Ries's career.
- That this happened is clear from the fact that, in 1539, Ries became court mathematician and was given the title Churfürstlich Sächsicher Hofarithmeticus.
- At this time he purchased the Riesenburg, a small castle, outside Annaberg almost half-way between Annaberg and Wiesa.
- The Riesenburg still exists today close to the Wohngebiet Adam Ries.
- Ries's income came mainly from his arithmetic textbooks.
- The second of Ries's books written while he was in Erfurt was Rechnung auff der linihen und Federn Ⓣ(Reckoning with lines and springs) (1522).
- Clearly Ries taught both the old method of calculating, derived from the abacus, and the new method, derived from the Indians, which at that time was forbidden in most countries! The third of Ries's arithmetic books Rechenung nach der lenge, auff den Linihen vnd Feder Ⓣ(Reckoning lengths with lines and spring) is often known as the Practica; it contains the picture of Ries which is reproduced above (the only image from a contemporary source).
- At that time division could only be learnt at the University of Altdorf (near Nürnberg) and even most scientists did not know how to divide; so it is astonishing that Ries explained it in a textbook designed for everyone to use.
- The reason for the long delay between the appearance of Ries's first two arithmetic texts and this third one was not because this third arithmetic was a much later work.
- Indeed most of the material had been written by Ries by 1525 but the printing costs were very high and he did not have the necessary funds to pay a printer.
- We still have to say something about Ries's algebra book Coss (1525).
- They were thought to be lost until they were found in 1855, and are now kept at the Erzgebirgsmuseum Annaberg-Buchholz, Annaberg being the Saxonian mining town where Ries lived as a respected citizen and teacher for many years until his death.
- Adam Ries also called it radix, root or thing.
- Ries's Coss, which, contrary to contemporary custom, was not written in Latin, but in German, is a link between the medieval descriptive algebra and the analytical algebra of modern days.
- Ries's fame was considerable and much has been done over the years to honour him and keep his name to the fore.
- Perhaps the most spectacular of the monuments to Ries is in Erfurt where a bronze bust, plaque and calculating table keep his memory alive.
- We illustrate in our pictures of Ries above a stamp which was issued in 1959 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of his birth.
Born 23 December 1492, Staffelstein (near Bamberg), Upper Franconia (now Germany). Died 30 March 1559, Annaberg, Saxony (now Annaberg-Buchholz, Germany).
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Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive