Saturday, December 10, 2011

Maria Agnesi's Analytical Institutions

Pages from the original Italian version of the Instituzioni analitche ad uso della gioventu italiana (Foundations of Analysis for the Use of Italian Youth) of Maria Agnesi (1718-1799). The text was one of the earliest treatments of calculus written on the European continent. Because Agnesi originally wrote this to instruct her younger brothers in analysis, she explained concepts very clearly and gave numerous examples.

Among Agnesi's examples was a description of a curve which she called la Versiera. We give here (pp. 380-381) her geometric description of the curve and her derivation of its analytic formula. The figure is given below.

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