Exhibition is titled Beyond Logarithms and Bones

Date posted

29 September 2017


AN exhibition charting the life and legacy of influential 16th century mathematician John Napier opens at Edinburgh’s Central Library on Monday October 2.

Napier – eighth Laird of Merchiston, who lived from 1550 to 1617 – had deep interests in astronomy and religion but is best known as the inventor of logarithms, which decoded previously unexplored complexities within mathematics.

He also invented a series of calculating devices, including ‘Napier’s Bones’, and made common the use of the decimal point.

The Beyond Logarithms & Bones free exhibition, one of a series of events marking the 400th anniversary of Napier’s passing, will include replica Bones as well as Napier memorabilia.

On display will be a rare Promptuary calculating machine, an extension of Napier’s Bones constructed according to Napier’s instructions, which was donated by New Zealand’s Auckland University, and a cap and feathers worn at the Clan Napier parade at this year’s Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

The exhibition storyboards and glass cabinet display focus on four specific themes concerning Napier’s life and legacy – Genesis, Transition, Creativity and Legacy.

The exhibition runs at the Central Library from October 2-16, and Edinburgh’s Eric Liddell Centre from October 19-31.

John Napier 400 was marked earlier this year by a memorial service featuring a new poem about Napier written by Edinburgh novelist Alexander McCall Smith, entitled A Cosmos of Numbers.

The anniversary of Napier’s passing was also commemorated with a public lecture at Edinburgh Napier University this month in which physicist and author Professor Jim Al-Khalili examined scientific advances which will shape the 21st century.

John Napier’s Merchiston Tower family home lies at the heart of Edinburgh Napier’s Merchiston campus, home to the Schools of Computing, Engineering and the Built Environment, and Arts and Creative Industries.