John Napier of Merchiston

Ingenuity, vision and wisdom, lightyears ahead within the cosmos of numbers, symbols and sequence. 

John Napier is best known for his ingenious invention of logarithms, which decoded many complexities within mathematics in the seventeenth century. Logarithms was applied by academics across Europe, within many fields of scientific inquiry, and contributed to significant advances in knowledge, understanding and innovation.

John Napier’s later invention of calculating rods, colloquially named Napier’s Bones, made logarithms accessible to wider audiences within society. Napier's Bones were credited as the world's first pocket calculator which continued to be used throughout the 20th Century, surpassed only in recent times through digital age innovations.


Please scroll over our timeline images to learn more about the significant milestones of John Napier’s extraordinary life.

Extraordinaria Vita (An Extraordinary Life)

What he did was extraordinary:
A man who worked by himself
A stranger in a cosmos of numbers,
But guided by desire

Find out the answers by visiting the John Napier 400 Exhibition at Central Library, Edinburgh from 01-30 October 2017. For further information, please contact Gary Seath (Community & Partnership Officer).