Varieties of wonder: John Wilkins' Mathematical Magic and the perpetuity of invention

Historia Mathematica 41 (4):463-489 (2014)
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Akin to the mathematical recreations, John Wilkins' Mathematicall Magick (1648) elaborates the pleasant, useful and wondrous part of practical mathematics, dealing in particular with its material culture of machines and instruments. We contextualize the Mathematicall Magick by studying its institutional setting and its place within changing conceptions of art, nature, religion and mathematics. We devote special attention to the way Wilkins inscribes mechanical innovations within a discourse of wonder. Instead of treating ‘wonder’ as a monolithic category, we present a typology, showing that wonders were not only recreative, but were meant to inspire Wilkins' readers to new mathematical inventions.

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Maarten Van Dyck
Ghent University


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