Christopher Polhem

Christopher Polhem (1661–1761), our Swedish Archimedes, was an incredibly clever inventor. Among other things, he constructed pumps, traps, and machines for bringing up ore from mines. In many works he shows his trust in the new mathematics, especially algebra. With the aid of mathematics, it would be possible to produce new machines that would make Sweden prosperous after all the years of war, pestilence, poor harvests, and starvation.

In 1716 Polhem wrote the first textbook in Swedish that contained algebra. It is pedagogically structured, with 57 ”lessons” to be learned by heart. The book has a striking title: The Second Pillar of Wisdom – For the Adornment of Youth, the Utility of Manhood, and the Pleasure of Old Age.

Polhem's textbook

Polhem also made notations with the new calculus. His source was the first textbook on differential calculus, Analyse des Infiniment Petits (1696) by l’Hospital.

Last modified: 2023-01-18