The Rare Traces of Constructional Procedures in `Practical Geometries´

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingReport chapterResearch


From a sociological point of view, pre-Modern "non-theoretical geometry" is not adequately described as merely "practical". The "practical geometry" we find in written treatises is mostly that of "scribal" environments, and aims at calculating lengths, areas or volumes from already performed measurements. As a rule it is not interested in geometrical construction, nor in the making of measurements - the fields, broadly speaking, of master builders/architects and surveyors.

The paper discusses two cases - one fairly well-established, another more conjectural - where none the less "scribal" practical geometry does reveal traces of (very simple) geometrical construction. Both of these concern the "long run", connecting Old Babylonian, classical ancient and late medieval material. A final instance of weak communication between "scribal" and "surveying" geometry is located in thirteenth-fourteenth-century France.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCreating Shapes in Civil and Naval Architecture : A Cross-Disciplinary Comparison
EditorsHorst Nowacki, Wolfgang Lefèvre
Number of pages10
PublisherBrill Academic Publishers, Incorporated
Publication date2009
Publication statusPublished - 2009
SeriesHistory of Science and Medicine Library

Cite this