ANDERSON, ALEXANDER, a very
eminent mathematician, born at Aberdeen, near the close of the sixteenth
century. How or where he acquired his mathematical education is not known;
he probably studied belles lettres and philosophy in his native university.
He comes into notice at Paris early in the seventeenth century, as a private
teacher or professor of mathematics. In that city, between the years 1612
and 1619, he published or edited various geometrical and algebraical tracts,
which are conspicuous for their ingenuity and elegance. It is doubtful
whether he was ever acquainted with the famous Vieta, Master of Requests at
Paris, who died in 1603; but his pure taste and skill in mathematical
investigation pointed him out to the executors of that illustrious man, who
had found leisure, in the intervals of a laborious profession, to cultivate
and extend the ancient geometry, and by adopting a system of general
symbols, to lay the foundation, and begin the superstructure, of algebraical
science, as the person most proper for revising and publishing his valuable
manuscripts. Anderson, however, did not confine himself to the duty of a
mere editor; he enriched the text with learned comments, and gave neat
demonstrations of those propositions which had been left imperfect. He
afterwards produced a specimen of the application of geometrical analysis,
which is distinguished by its clearness and classic elegance.
The works of this eminent
person amount to six thin quarto volumes, now very scarce. These are, - l.
Supplementum Apollonii Redivivi: sive analysis problematis bactenus
desiderati ad Apollonii Pergaei doctrinam a Marino Ghetaldo Patritio
Regusino hujusque non ita pridem institutam, &c. Paris, 1612, 4to. This
tract refers to the prob1em of inclinations, by which, in certain cases, the
application of the curve called the conchoid is superseded.- 2. Pro
Zetetico Apolloniani problematis a se jam pridem edito in supplemento
Apollonii Redivivi. Being an addition to the former work. Paris, 1615, 4to.
- 3. The edition of the works of Vieta. Paris, 1615, 4to.- 4. Ad Angularum
Sectionem Analytica Theoremsta &c. Paris, 1615, 4to. - 5. Vindiciae
Archimedis, &c. Paris, 1616, 4to. - 6. Alexandri Andersoni Scoti
Exercitationum Mathematicarum Decas Prima, &c. Paris, 1619, 4to. All
these pieces, of this excellent geometrician, are replete with the finest
specimens of pure geometrical exercises that have ever perhaps been produced
by any authors, ancient or modern.
Besides these, literary
history is not aware of any other publications by Anderson, though probably
there may have been others. Indeed, from the last piece it fully appears
that he had at least written, if not published, another, viz. A Treatise on
the Mensuration of Solids, perhaps with a reference to gauging; as in
several problems, where he critically examines the treatise of Kepler on
cask-gauging, he often refers to his own work on stereometry.
This eminent person was
cousin-german to Mr David Anderson of Finshaugh, a gentleman who also
possessed a singular turn for mathematical knowledge, and who could apply
his acquirements to so many useful purposes that he was popularly known at
Aberdeen by the name of Davie Do-a'-things. He acquired prodigious local
fame by removing a large rock, which had formerly obstructed the entrance to
the harbour of Aberdeen. Mathematical genius seems to have been in some
degree inherent in the whole family; for through a daughter of Mr David
Anderson, it reached the celebrated James Gregory, inventor of the
reflecting telescope, who was the son of that lady, and is said to have
received, from her, the elements of mathematical knowledge. From the same
lady was descended the late Dr Reid of Glasgow, who was not less eminent for
his acquaintance with the mathematics, than for his metaphysical writings.