Book #17: Calculus Made Easy

By Sylvanus P. Thompson

Calculus Made Easy

I once had a logic professor, the rumpled/ bespectacled/ round/ beaming English type, who announced in the first class of the term “it is my job to make logic as pleasant as possible.” This book (which was first published in 1910 — I notice it’s recently been updated and modernized, which is kind of a shame) is the equivalent of that little speech, but for calculus.

The full title is Calculus Made Easy: Being a very-simplest introduction to those beautiful methods of reckoning which are generally called by the terrifying names of the Differential Calculus and the Integral Calculus. Sylvanus P. Thompson — and who can resist a name like that — takes a very clear, gentle, first-principles approach to explaining calculus. He does in spots sacrifice accuracy to get his point across, but isn’t that always the case with intro-level texts?

My copy of this book got both my Dad and I through first-year university calculus. It’s a nice counterpart to whatever the official text is, since Thompson comes at ideas from a different angle. Very useful.

1 thought on “Book #17: Calculus Made Easy

  1. And me, I would have been in deep trouble without it! Given that our calculus ‘professor’ turned out to actually be a janitor… I did ok, my friend passed comfortably by copying off of me, and her friend squeaked a pass by copying off of her.

    I like the “it’s not a scary as everyone likes to make you think” approach. I wish more subjects were taught like that. You know, “here, there’s this really, fabulously interesting thing, why don’t I help you learn about it!”. Sigh. School would have been so much more fun.

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