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Knox's "Differential Calculus for Beginners"
(S377: 1885)

Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: A book review printed on page 527 of the 9 April 1885 issue of Nature. To link directly to this page, connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S377.htm

Differential Calculus for Beginners, with a Selection of Easy Examples. By Alex. Knox, B.A. (London: Macmillan and Co., 1884.)

     This little book deserves hearty welcome from those who are engaged in leading forward students to the higher mathematics; not so much as a substitute for any other work at present in use, but as presenting a carefully-selected set of illustrations of infinitesimals, limits, and differential coefficients, which a student may profitably work through before entering upon the usual formal treatises on the calculus.

     We know of no work in English comparable with the present since De Morgan's "Elementary Illustrations of the Differential and Integral Calculus."

     The special symbols of the subject are not introduced into the work before us, attention being directed to the new principles involved in the method of the calculus; indeed, the chief aim of the author throughout is to give the learner a firm grasp of the idea of a differential coefficient--a fundamental notion which, in the minds of beginners, is usually shrouded in a haze. Care is taken to deal one at a time with the difficulties which present themselves in this subject. The book is divided into twenty sections, the latter two or three dealing with successive differentiation, Maclaurin's theorem, and maxima and minima.

     But before new principles or processes are introduced, an endeavour is made to insure a precise comprehension of the meaning of terms already employed by the student. And the freshness of treatment, as well as the clearness with which the author brings before the mind the exact meaning of such terms as "point," "line," "superficies," in the first section of this book, will awaken the interest and arrest the attention of even an indifferent learner.

     Many of the sections are independent of each other. There is much variety of illustration, the central principle being looked at from different points of view. A distinguishing feature is the great use made of arithmetical calculations, many examples of the method of finite differences occurring.

     Besides the usual geometrical treatment based on Newton's "Lemmas," the ideas of time and motion are freely introduced, and illustrations taken from elementary kinematics.

     The book closes with a set of examples worked out in full, and a series of one hundred easy exercises, the answers to which are appended.

A. R. W.

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