Mathematics at the CRC

Posted on January 14, 2015 | in CRC, Featured | by

Whilst preparing an introductory presentation for History of Science UG students, I came across this fascinating handwritten volume on geometry. It looks quite unassuming from the outside, but inside are the most precise and beautiful illustrations.


The inside cover of the volume says:

Work belonging to the late Professor Thomas Jackson of St Andrews supposed to have been done by himself, full of colour illustrations £3/3/

The book contains numerous notes on topics such as Euclid’s Elements and ‘Altimetry and Longimetry or the Mensuration of Heights and Distances’. It is part of the Laing Collection, shelfmark La.III.171. The name Thomas Jackson could refer to either of two individuals at St Andrew’s University: Professor Thomas Thomson Jackson (1798-1878) who taught biblical criticism from 1836-1851, or Professor Thomas Jackson Crawford (1812–1875) who was later professor of Divinity at Edinburgh University.1 However neither was a mathematician so the origin of the book is still mysterious.


The section on altimetry (the measurement of altitude) and longimetry (the measurement of length) includes detailed watercolours of buildings, landscapes and seascapes, accompanied by mathematical annotations. It also has a detailed illustration of a mariner’s compass:


Within the Euclid section of the binding, there is even an incredible fold-out image ‘To Make Scales, Cords, Sines and Tangents’:


The Altimetry and Longimetry images are available to view on our image database: and were taken by the Digital Imaging Unit photographers.


1’IM%2FLC%2FmsLF1119.A2X’) ;,_Thomas_Jackson_(DNB00)

This item can be consulted at the Centre for Research Collections:

Fran Baseby, Service Delivery Curator

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