John Pell's Mathematical Papers and the Royal Society's English Atlas

Daisy Hildyard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


In 1678 a committee of Fellows of the Royal Society was appointed to oversee the production of an ‘English Atlas’ in co-operation with the printer Moses Pitt. The new atlas was to be large and grand, published in eleven volumes with hundreds of maps. It was, as the official proposal put it, no less than ‘a new and Accurat description of the World’. However, it was never brought to completion. This article examines unpublished mathematical papers which document John Pell’s attempts to devise a projectional model in accordance with the published proposals for the atlas. Proposals and advertisements for potential collaborators, composed and circulated by the committee, put forward a representation of idealised cartographic practice. However, when it came to calculating the projection, Pell struggled to accommodate these idealised practices. Pell’s mathematical papers, previously unexamined, afford an unusual perspective on the Royal Society’s methods, and suggest that failures, as well as successes, influenced the developing identity of the scientific community.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)18-31
JournalBSHM Bulletin: Journal of the British Society for the History of Mathematics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2014

Cite this