IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

Fermat's treatise on quadrature: A new reading

Listed author(s):
Registered author(s):

    The Treatise on Quadrature of Fermat (c. 1659), besides containing the first known proof of the computation of the area under a higher parabola, R x+m/n dx, or under a higher hyperbola, R x-m/n dx— with the appropriate limits of integration in each case—, has a second part which was not understood by Fermat’s contemporaries. This second part of the Treatise is obscure and difficult to read and even the great Huygens described it as 'published with many mistakes and it is so obscure (with proofs redolent of error) that I have been unable to make any sense of it'. Far from the confusion that Huygens attributes to it, in this paper we try to prove that Fermat, in writing the Treatise, had a very clear goal in mind and he managed to attain it by means of a simple and original method. Fermat reduced the quadrature of a great number of algebraic curves to the quadrature of known curves: the higher parabolas and hyperbolas of the first part of the paper. Others, he reduced to the quadrature of the circle. We shall see how the clever use of two procedures, quite novel at the time: the change of variables and a particular case of the formula of integration by parts, provide Fermat with the necessary tools to square very easily curves as well-known as the folium of Descartes, the cissoid of Diocles or the witch of Agnesi.

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

    File URL:
    File Function: Whole Paper
    Download Restriction: no

    Paper provided by Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra in its series Economics Working Papers with number 775.

    in new window

    Date of creation: Sep 2004
    Handle: RePEc:upf:upfgen:775
    Contact details of provider: Web page:

    No references listed on IDEAS
    You can help add them by filling out this form.

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:upf:upfgen:775. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ()

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.