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Nathaniel Bowditch and the Power of Numbers"How a Nineteenth-Century Man of Business, Science, and the Sea Changed American Life"$
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Tamara Plakins Thornton

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781469626932

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469626932.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA PRESS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.northcarolina.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of North Carolina Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in NCSO for personal use.date: 27 September 2021

Born into Salem

Born into Salem

(p.7) Chapter One Born into Salem
Nathaniel Bowditch and the Power of Numbers

Tamara Plakins Thornton

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter presents Nathaniel Bowditch’s childhood and youth in Salem, Massachusetts, as they were shaped by the town’s maritime orientation, Revolutionary-era events, and the network of family and social relationships into which Bowditch was born. Additionally, it explores three distinct worlds of contemporary mathematics, embodied in the applied skills of mathematical practitioners, the Harvard curriculum, and European scholarship. Kin connections were the key to Bowditch’s apprenticeship in a maritime business, where he received training in bookkeeping, navigation, and surveying. Impressed with Bowditch’s mathematical abilities and interests, Salem’s learned gentlemen provided him with an entrée into the world of European mathematical and scientific scholarship, housed in Salem’s Philosophical Library. Here Bowditch educated himself and was first exposed to the mathematical vision of predictability and certitude that was a driving force in his life and work.

Keywords:   Bowditch, Nathaniel, Salem, Massachusetts, Elites, Social relations, Mathematics, Science, Navigation, Bookkeeping, Maritime affairs, Harvard University

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