John Napier is a Scottish mathematician who is famous for his devices to assist with computation. He is best known as the inventor of logarithms, Napier’s bones, and the use of the decimal point in mathematics. His work with logarithms was revolutionary at his time. He made it possible for mathematicians to do their long tedious calculations like multiplying and dividing very large numbers by replacing them with simpler processes by adding and subtracting the corresponding logarithms. This made many astronomers thrilled with shorter simpler calculations. Their work went from pages to pages and hours and hours of work to just a few pages and only a few hours of work. It speed up the time of the calculations for the planetary positions in the solar system. Even though he invented a revolutionary way to do mathematical calculations in a much faster way, many mathematicians did not trust Napier. Many objected to use logarithms because no one knew or understood how they worked. He did not have proof that the calculations were correct.

Napier had a great interest in astronomy. Which led to his contribution to mathematics. Napier was not just a stargazer, he was involved in research that required lengthy and time consuming calculations of very large numbers. Once the idea came to him that there might be an easier and simpler way to perform large number calculations, Napier focused on his invention and spent more than twenty years perfecting his idea. The result of this work is what we now call logarithms.

Napier found out that all the numbers can be expressed in what we now call exponential form, meaning 8 can be written as 2^3. What make logarithms so useful is the fact that the operations of multiplication and division can be reduced to simple addition and subtraction. When very large numbers are expressed as a logarithm, multiplication becomes the addition of exponents.

John Napier first wrote down his discovery in his own book called “ A Description of the Wonderful Canon of Logarithms.” One of John Napier’s most famous quotes is

“Seeing there is nothing that is so troublesome to mathematical practice.... than the multiplications, divisions, square and cubical