General information and resources for students and adult learners.


    Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning. -Albert Einstein


    The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you go. - Dr. Seuss

  • Research Is . . .

    Research means that you don't know, but are willing to find out.-Charles F. Kettering

John Napier

John Napier, Laird of Merchiston, was born in Merchiston Castle in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1550. As the eighth laird of Merchiston, Napier was first educated in France in 1561. He became a student of the University of St Andrews in Scotland at the age of 13 but he left without taking a degree. He had a fine mind and vivid imagination and spent his early years on his properties experimenting in agriculture.
Napier was also a theologian of very definite views, writing his “A Plain discovery of the whole revelation of St John” in 1593. He was also an inventor of war machines such as “burning mirrors” to stop a Spanish Armada, artillery pieces capable of clearing a field four miles in circumference and tank-like chariot.

It was in mathematics, that he made his name. He devoted most of his leisure time to study of mathematics particularly to devising methods of making computations easier. As a mathematician, he was already considering imaginary roots and experimenting with methods to extract all real roots of any positive numbers. It is hard to establish when he first began to develop the concept of logarithms but by 1549 his work was already well advanced.

For the rest of his life he developed, simplified and worked on his logarithmic tables. In the course of his work he introduced the present decimal notation.
Logarithms is the greatest of his inventions. In 1614, Napier published his new system, “Mirifici Logarithmorum Canonis Descriptio". He began working on this computational method as early as 1594, gradually elaborating his computational system whereby roots, products and quotients could be quickly determined from tables showing powers of a fixed number used as a base.
Napier’s invention of logarithms is shared with Jobst Burgi (1552-1632), a Swiss watchmaker, whose independent discovery was published six years later. His tables appeared in 1620 under the title of “Arithmetische und Geometrische Progress Tabulen”. Both men worked independently of each other and Napier had his works published first. A slight change in Napier’s definition which arose from his collaboration with Briggs gave logarithms as we know them today.
The “Rabdologia” was published in 1617. In it Napier explained how numbered rods, known as Napier’s bones maybe used for performing multiplication and division. This device was the forerunner of the slide rule. He also derived an ingenious method using counters on a chess board for performing multiplication, division and the extraction of roots.
The word Logarithm was first used by John Napier. It means ratio number. His admirer Henry Briggs, suggested to him that he use a base 10. Napier heeded his advice.
In 1624 Briggs also introduced the word ”Mantissa”, in Latin meaning an addition but used here as meaning an appendix. It was not commonly used until Leonardo Paul Euler, a Swiss Mathematician, adopted it in his ‘Introductio in Analysin Infinitorum” in 1748. Carl Gauss, a German mathematician and scientist suggested that it be used for the fractional part of decimals. Briggs in 1624 also suggested that the term "characteristic" be used.
Napier’s invention of logarithms overshadows his other mathematical work. John Napier also designed mirrors which burned and destroyed at a distance and a means of “sayling under water.” Some people accused him of black art. Others praised his ingenuity.
In April 04, 1617 he died in the same castle in which he was born.
1. " A History of Mathematics", by D. E. Smith. Dover Publication.
2. "An Introduction to the History of Mathematics", by Howard Eves. Holt, Rinehart and Winston.


Where Is Liberty Island?

Liberty Island is an island in Upper New York Bay, USA, on which the Statue of Liberty stands. The 5 - hectare (12 acres) island lies about 2.4 km (1/2 miles) southwest of Manhattan Island. Before the island was officially renamed in 1956, it was called Bedloe's island.
The people of France gave the Statue of Liberty to the people of the United States in 1884. This gift was an expression of friendship and of the idea of liberty shared by both countries. It was dedicated on October 28, 1886, designated as a National Monument in 1924 and restored for her centennial on July 4, 1986.
It stands on a pedestal that rises from within Fort Wood, whose walls were built in the shape of an 11-point star between 1806 and 1811.
There was a military post on the island until 1937. The statue of Liberty National Monument was established in 1924, but it did not include the land outside the walls of Fort Wood. The remainder of the island became part of the national monument in 1937.
The island is administered by the National Park Service. Offices and housing for National Park Services employees are located on the island. New York state has official jurisdiction over the island.

Did you know?
  • The only way to get to Liberty Island is by using the Statue of Liberty - Ellis Island Ferry system. Private vessels are not allowed to dock at Liberty and Ellis Islands.
  • Liberty Island is federal property within the territory of the State of New York even though it is closer to New Jersey.


Where would you find a sherpa?

You would find a Sherpa people in Nepal high up in the Himalayas. They are renowned for their mountain climbing abilities. Many Sherpas earn their living by guiding tourist, trekkers and mountaineers up the steep and rocky paths.
Sherpas were of immeasurable value to early explorers of the Himalayan region, serving as guides and porters at the extreme altitudes of the peaks in the region.The Sherpas originally migrated to Tibet from Mongolia and then left Tibet to settle in the Solo Khumbu district of Nepal
Tenzing Norgay (1914-1986) a Sherpa guide was one of the first two people to reach the top of the Mount Everest and return. On May 29, 1953, Tenzing and Sir Edmund Hillary of New Zealand reach the summit. Their expedition has spent more than two months moving supplies and equipment up the mountain. Tenzing became internationally famous and is a hero to the Sherpa and Nepalese people.


Where would you have caught the Pony Express?

The Pony Express was a fast mail service, you would have to caught the Pony Express between Saint Joseph, Missouri and Sacramento, California. It was a horseback mail service which began on 3 April, 1860. At that time regular mail delivery took up to three weeks to cross America.
The Pony express was founded by William H. Russell, William Bradford Waddell and Alexander Majors who were already in the freighting business with 4,000 men, 3,500 wagons and 40,000 oxen in 1858. It was an enormous undertaking, assembling 156 stations, 120 riders, 400 horses and hundreds of employees, all during January and February of 1860 .
The Pony Express carried mail rapidly overland on horseback nearly 2,000 miles between St Joseph and Sacramento. The schedule allowed ten days for the trip. The mail was then carried by boat to San Francisco. Each rider was expected to cover 120 km (75 miles) a day. Pony Express riders were usually light weighted, young men often teenagers who used special saddle bags that could be moved to a fresh horse very quickly at a change station.
The Pony Express route was extremely hazardous but only one mail delivery was ever lost. The regular Pony Express service was discontinued in October 1861.


Where does the alphabet start with QWERTY?

The alphabet starts with QWERTY on a typewriter or keyboard where Q-W-E-R-T-Y is the order of the first keys.
The first typewriter was invented by Christopher Latham Sholes and was marketed by the company named Remington Arms in 1873. The action of the type bars in early typewriters was very sluggish and tended to jam frequently.
To solve this problem, Sholes obtained a list of the most common letters used in the English language and changed his keyboard from an alphabetic arrangement to one in which the most common pairs of letters were spread wider apart on the keyboard.
Because the typist at the time used what was known as the "hunt-and-peck" method, Sholes's arrangement increased the time it took for the typist to hit the keys for common two letter combinations long enough to ensure that each type bar had time to fall back sufficiently far to be back in place before the next one came up.


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