Robert Recorde

Tudor Polymath, Expositor and Practitioner of Computation

by Jack Williams

Series: History of Computing

The 16th-Century intellectual Robert Recorde is chiefly remembered for introducing the equals sign into algebra, yet the greater significance and broader scope of his work is often overlooked.

Robert Recorde: Tudor Polymath, Expositor and Practitioner of Computation presents an authoritative and in-depth analysis of the man, his achievements and his historical importance. This scholarly yet accessible work examines the latest evidence on all aspects of Recorde’s life, throwing new light on a character deserving of greater recognition.

Topics and features: presents a concise chronology of Recorde’s life; examines his published works; The Grounde of Artes, The Pathway to Knowledge, The Castle of Knowledge, and The Whetstone of Witte; describes Recorde’s professional activities in the minting of money and the mining of silver, as well as his dispute with William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke; investigates Recorde’s work as a physician, his linguistic and antiquarian interests, and his religious beliefs; discusses the influence of Recorde’s publisher, Reyner Wolfe, in his life; reviews his legacy to 17th-Century science, and to modern computer science and mathematics.

This fascinating insight into a much under-appreciated figure is a must-read for researchers interested in the history of computer science and mathematics, and for scholars of renaissance studies, as well as for the general reader.


  • Springer London; November 2011
  • ISBN: 9780857298621
  • Read online, or download in DRM-free PDF (digitally watermarked) format
  • Title: Robert Recorde
  • Series: History of Computing
  • Author: Jack Williams
  • Imprint: Springer

In The Press

From the reviews:

“This volume primarily consists of a very detailed examination of Recorde’s four major mathematical books. … For the graduate student in the history of mathematics, this thorough and detailed work would be valuable.” (M. D. Derk, ACM Computing Reviews, March, 2012)

“This book fills a gap in historical biography that has existed for far too long. … The majority of the chapters describe Recorde’s life and career, but four are devoted to the description and analysis of his four mathematical works … for which he is most famous. … an excellent book. I can recommend it.” (John Denniss, The Mathematical Association of America, April, 2012)