Napier and the invention of logarithms

Date: Published in 1913-1914
Publication: Royal Philosophical Society of Glasgow proceedings, Volume 45, Pages 35-56.

Professor George A Gibson read his paper before the Royal Philosophical Society of Glasgow on 11 February 1914. Of John Napier's invention of logarithms he says:

'At the present day it is perhaps somewhat difficult to form an adequate conception of the greatness of Napier's invention; yet it is beyond all question that the invention of logarithms marks an epoch in the history of science.

Gibson describes the debt of Isaac Newton to John Napier as indirect, but 'very real', because 'Newton was essentially dependent on the results of Kepler's calculations, and these calculations might not have been completed in Kepler's lifetime but for the aid that the logarithms afforded ...'

He continues: 'Without the logarithms or some similar help astronomical observations could only have been reduced, if at all, with the very greatest difficulty, and the development of modern science might have followed a very different course.'

Napier, Gibson concludes, is a man 'of whom every Scotchman should be proud to claim as a compatriot.'