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Irish-born Oliver Byrne (1810-1880) was an innovator in mathematics education, particularly in the teaching of geometry.
His most well known book was his colorful version of ‘Euclid’s Elements’, published in 1847.
www-groups.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/history/Biogra… #science
Nearly a century before Mondrian made geometrical red, yellow, and blue lines famous, mathematician Oliver Byrne employed the color scheme for the figures and diagrams in his most unusual 1847 edition of Euclid's Elements.
Byrne faced physical and financial hardship and ridicule from his contemporaries for his mathematical and pedagogical innovations. He also published How to Measure the Earth with the Assistance of Railroads (1838). #maths #histsci
Byrne also published a variety of mathematical pamphlets using the pseudonym E. B. Revilo (Oliver spelled backward).
The mathematician Augustus De Morgan (1806-1871), in A Budget of Paradoxes, judged Byrne's work to be nonsense and considered him to be an eccentric mathematician.
Byrne claimed to have conducted experiments showing that Euclid’s Elements could be mastered using this color method “in less than one third of the time usually employed.” His expressed aim was “to teach people how to think and not what to think".
"I do not introduce colours for the purpose of entertainment, or to amuse by certain combinations of tint and form, but to assist the mind in its researches after truth, to increase the facilities of instruction, and to diffuse permanent knowledge".
Oliver Byrne
Oliver Byrne’s 1847 Euclid was one of the first multicolor printed books. Many consider it the most attractive edition of Euclid’s Elements ever produced.
Byrne's Euclid was extremely difficult and expensive to produce. Only one thousand copies were originally published. It did not sell well at a price of 25 shillings, almost five times the typical book price at the time.
"No one who holds it in his hands can resist the fascination of its illustrations. The pictures are more captivating because they simply suggest, concretely demonstrate ad oculus and ...
... thus assist in the comprehension of mathematical laws that initially seem most difficult and abstract".
Werner Oechslin, historian of art
Oliver Byrne felt that geometry is the basis of all of mathematical science, and should provide a student's first formal experience with proof, the bedrock of mathematical thought.
Oliver Byrne's Elements of Euclid was written and designed purportedly to simplify Euclid’s geometry.
Historian of mathematics Florian Cajori (1859-1930) said that Byrne's use of colored diagrams and symbols was “a noteworthy device for aiding the young mind through sensuous stimulus”. #science
Byrne's Elements of Euclid was designed and printed by the acclaimed printer Charles Whittingham (1795-1876) of the Chiswick Press. The book's use of color was its most striking feature.
Byrne's Euclid was exhibited in London at the Great Exhibition of 1851. Praise was given for its beauty and the artistry of the printing, which may have influenced future publications and artwork.
Byrne's novel idea was to replace the usual symbols for lines, triangles, angles, ... like AB, ABC, ∠ABC, ... by coloured shapes.
Byrne had experimented with colors in schools and he had evidently decided that the schoolteacher's approach indicating lines, angles,... on the blackboard and then making deductions from them would be better described by his method than in the usual way.
"The use of coloured symbols, signs, and diagrams in the linear arts and science renders the process of reasoning more precise, and the attainment more expeditious."
Oliver Byrne
Historians of art have seen the geometric works of Mondrian pre-figured in the diagrams devised by Byrne though Mondrian admitted to never having seen the work.
British typographic designer Ruari McLean calls Byrne's Euclid "one of the oddest and most beautiful books of the whole century".
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