The Mathematical Visitor 1877-1896

Indeed, the periodical literature in mathematics has been especially rich in the tradition of publishing challenging problems and subsequent solutions. From simple computational problems sent in by people needing help, to problems and solutions whose consequences cast their shadows across centuries of mathematics, the periodicals have provided a special forum for the dynamic exchange of ideas.

A study of the problems in a single periodical reveals much about the mathematical spirit of the time. In 1817, Thomas Leybourn published a massive four volume collection containing over 1,300 problems and solutions from the famous

The British tradition of publishing problems in periodicals was well established by the time America achieved its independence. A glance at the early American periodicals proves revealing. Even among those not primarily devoted to mathematical or scientific themes, there is evidence of ongoing interest in and fascination with puzzles and mathematical problems. On occasion, newspapers offered tempting teasers for their readers, with solutions appearing in later issues. One British newspaper, the

At the beginning of the 19th century, periodicals devoted entirely to mathematics emerged in America, and problems and solutions contributed by readers began to fill their pages. Among these periodicals were

In a variety of cultural areas, including fine art and music, early America was somewhat insecure in its ability to produce an indigenous product worthy of comparison with its European counterpart. By midcentury, however, even the British were impressed with what was called Yankee Ingenuity and the American flair for practicality. Especially manifest in New England and the northeastern states, American efficiency in manufacturing and industry were world-renowned and respected. The passion for the practical, the getting down to the business of doing it quickly and efficiently, can even be seen in problems posed in the mathematical periodicals.

There was much fascination with exhaustive computation and deft manipulation of masses of symbols. Among the hundreds of problems in

Lawrence Zimmerman

Brooklyn, New York

March, 1994