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God, king, and geometry: revisiting the introduction to Cauchy’s Cours d’analyse
22.06.2021 Michael J. Barany
Mathematics
Augustin-Louis Cauchy

This article offers a systematic reading of the introduction to Augustin-Louis Cauchy’s landmark 1821 mathematical textbook, the Cours d’analyse. Despite its emblematic status in the history of mathematical analysis and, indeed, of modern mathematics as a whole, Cauchy’s introduction has been more a source for suggestive quotations than an object of study in its own right. 

Cauchy’s short mathematical metatext offers a rich snapshot of a scholarly paradigm in transition. A close reading of Cauchy’s writing reveals the complex modalities of the author’s epistemic positioning, particularly with respect to the geometric study of quantities in space, as he struggles to refound the discipline on which he has staked his young career.

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