Brook Taylor

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Brook Taylor (August 18, 1685 – December 29, 1731) was an English mathematician and secretary of the Royal Society of London, best known for Taylor's theorem and the Taylor series.


New Principles of Linear Perspective (1715, 1749)[edit]

Or the Art of Designing on a Plane, the Representations of All Sorts of Objects, in a More General and Simple Method Than Has Been Hitherto Done
  • Considering how few, and how simple the Principles are, upon which the whole Art of Perspective depends, and withal how useful, nay how absolutely necessary this Art is to all forts of Designing; I have often wonder'd, that it has still been left in so low a degree of Perfection, as it is found to be, in the Books that have been hitherto wrote upon it.
  • It seems that those, who have hitherto treated of this Subject, have been more conversant in the Practice of Designing, than in the Principles of Geometry... that might have enabled them to render the Principles of it more universal, and more convenient for Practice. In this Book I have endeavour'd to do this; and have done my utmost to render the Principles of the Art as general, and as universal as may be, and to devise such Constructions, as might be the most simple and useful in Practice.
  • In order to this, I found it absolutely necessary to consider this Subject entirely anew, as if it had never been treated of before; the Principles of the old Perspective being so narrow, and so confined, that they could be of no use in my Design: And I was forced to invent new Terms of Art, those already in use being so peculiarly adapted to the imperfect Notions that have hitherto been had of this Art, that I could make no use of them in explaining those general Principles I intended to establish.
  • I make no difference between the Plane of the Horizon, and any other Plane whatsoever; for since Planes, as Planes, are alike in Geometry, it is most proper to consider them as so, and to explain their Properties in general, leaving the Artist himself to apply them in particular Cases, as Occasion requires.
  • The true and best way of learning any Art, is not to see a great many Examples done by another Person, but to possess ones seIf first of the Principles of it, and then to make them familiar, by exercising ones self in the Practice. Far it is Practice alone, that makes a Man perfect in any thing.
  • I have endeavour'd to make every thing so plain, that a very little Skill in Geometry may be sufficient to enable one to read this Book by himself. And upon this occasion I would advise all my Readers, who desire to make themselves Masters of this Subject, not to be contented with the Schemes they find here; but upon every Occasion to draw new ones of their own, in all the Variety of Circumstances they can think of. This will take up a little more Time at first; but in a little while they will find the vast Benefit of it, by the extensive Notions it will give them of the Nature of these Principles.
  • It is generally thought very ridiculous to pretend to write an Heroic Poem, or a fine Discourse upon any Subject, without understanding the Propriety of the Language wrote in; and to me it seems no less ridiculous for one to pretend to make a good Picture without understanding Perspective...
  • The Art Perspective is necessary to all Arts... but it is more particularly necessary to the Art Painting... The Greatest Masters have been the most guilty... The great Occasion of this Fault, is certainly the wrong Method that generally is used in the Education of Persons to this Art: For the Young People are generally put immediately to Drawing, and when they have acquired a Facility in that, they are put to Colouring. And these things they learn by rote, and by Practice only; but are not at all instructed in any Rules of Art. By which means when they come to make any Designs of their own, tho' they... don t know how to govern their Inventions with Judgment, and become guilty of so many gross Mistakes, which prevent themselves, as well as others, from finding that Satisfaction, they otherwise would do in their Performances.
  • I would recommend it to the Masters of the Art Painting... to establish a better Method for the Education of their Scholars, and to begin their Instructions with the Technical Parts of Painting, before they let them loose to follow the Inventions of their own uncultivated Imaginations.

Quotes about Taylor[edit]

  • Early in 1717 he returned to London, and composed three treatises, which were presented to the Royal Society, and published in the 30th volume of the Transactions. About this time his intense application had impaired his health to a considerable degree; and he was under the necessity of repairing, for relaxation and relief, to Aix-la-Chapelle. Having likewise a desire of directing his attention to subjects moral and religious speculation, he resigned his office of secretary to the Royal Society in 1718. After this he applied to subjects of a very different kind. Among his papers were found detached parts of a Treatise on the Jewish Sacrifices, and a dissertation of considerable length on the Lawfulness of eating Blood. He did not, however, wholly neglect his former subjects of study, but employed his leisure hours in combining science and art; with this view he revised and improved his treatise on Linear Perspective.
  • Drawing continued to be his favourite amusement to his latest hour; and it is not improbable that his valuable life was shortened by the sedentary habits which this amusement, succeeding his severer studies, occasioned.
  • The theory of perspective was taught in painting schools from the sixteenth century onward according to principles laid down by the masters... However, their treatises on perspective had on the whole been precept, rule, and ad hoc procedure; they lacked a solid mathematical basis. In the period from 1500 to 1600 artists and subsequently mathematicians put the subject on a satisfactory deductive basis, and it passed from quasi-empirical art to a true science. Definitive works on perspective were written much later by eighteenth-century mathematicians Brook Taylor and J. H. Lambert.
    • Morris Kline, Mathematical Thought from Ancient to Modern Times (1972)
  • Brook Taylor... in his Methodus Incrementorum Directa et Inversa (1715), sought to clarify the ideas of the calculus but limited himself to algebraic functions and algebraic differential equations. ...Taylor's exposition, based on what we would call finite differences, failed to obtain many backers because it was arithmetical in nature when the British were trying to tie the calculus to geometry or to the physical notion of velocity.
    • Morris Kline, Mathematical Thought from Ancient to Modern Times (1972)
  • The Gregory-Newton interpolation formula was used by Brook Taylor to develop the most powerful single method for expanding a function into an infinite series. In his Methodus Incrementorum Directa et Inversa Taylor derived the theorem... he praises Newton but makes no mention of Leibniz's work of 1673 on finite differences, though Taylor knew this work. Taylor's theorem was known to James Gregory in 1670 and was known... by Leibnez, however these two men did not pubish it. John Bernoulli did publish practically the same result in the Acta Eruditorium of 1694; and though Taylor knew his result he did not refer to it. ...Colin Maclaurin in his Treatise of Fluxions (1742) stated that... [Mclaurin's theorem] was but a special case of Taylor's result.
    • Morris Kline, Mathematical Thought from Ancient to Modern Times (1972)
  • I am spared the necessity of closing this biographical sketch with a prolix detail of his character: in the best acceptation of duties relative to each situation of life in which he was engaged, his own writings and the writings of those who best knew him, prove him to have been the finished Christian, gentleman, and scholar.
    • Sir William Young, Contemplatio Philosophica, a posthumous work of the late Brook Taylor, L.L.D., F.R.S., some time secretary of the Royal Society as quoted by Good, Gregory & Bosworth, "Taylor (Dr. Brook)" in Pantologia (1813) Vol.11

External links[edit]

Wikipedia has an article about:
  • Charles Knight, ed., "Taylor, Brook," Biography: Or, Third Division of "The English Encyclopedia" Vol.5, p.927
  • Brook Taylor, New Principles of Linear Perspective (1749)
  • John Mason Good, Olinthus Gregory, Newton Bosworth, "Taylor (Dr. Brook)" in Pantologia: A New Cyclopaedia, Comprehending a Complete Series of Essays, Treatises, and Systems, Alphabetically Arranged; with a General Dictionary of Arts, Sciences and Words (1813) Vol.11