Overview of D E Smith's publications

This is more an overview of the way that we have chosen to display the extra information we have about David Eugene Smith's publications rather than an overview of his remarkable publication record itself. First note that the paper by Bertha Margaret Frick in Volume 1 of Osiris entitled Bibliography of the Critical, Historical and Pedagogical Writings of David Eugene Smith (1936) lists 564 publications but it only contains his publications up to 1935 and it quite deliberately omits his textbooks (of which there are many). We note that this first volume of Osiris was dedicated to Smith and you can read George Sarton's dedication at THIS LINK.


Faced with a list as long as this we can only give details of a relatively small number of Smith's publications but we hope that at least our information contains a flavour of all areas to which Smith made contributions.

First we look at Smith's major history of mathematics books. His most important co-authored work is The Hindu-Arabic numerals (Ginn and Company, Boston, 1911) which he wrote in collaboration with Louis Charles Karpinski. We give the Preface to this work and short extracts from some reviews at THIS LINK.

His most important single authored history of mathematics books are Rara arithmetica (1908), History of mathematics (2 Vols.) (1923, 1925) and A source book in mathematics (1929). We give extracts from the Prefaces and short extracts from some reviews of these books at THIS LINK.

However, D E Smith wrote many other important books. The one which probably should have been placed along with his major works is A history of Japanese mathematics (1914) which he co-authored with Yoshio Mikami. We have given short extracts from some reviews of this and eleven other books by Smith on the history of mathematics at THIS LINK. Also at this link we give an extract from D E Smith's Preface to A history of Japanese mathematics.

Other books by Smith on the history of mathematics or on mathematical education, other than his textbooks, that we have omitted from the lists for which we have given extracts of reviews are: The teaching of elementary mathematics (1900). History of modern mathematics (1906); (with Charles Goldziher) Bibliography of the teaching of mathematics, 1900-1912 (1912); (with Caroline Eustis Seely) Union list of mathematical periodicals (1918); Historical-mathematical Paris (1924); and Mathematica Gothica (1925).

D E Smith edited a number of translations of classic works. We have not included these in any of our lists. For example he translated (with Marcia Lutham) René Descartes' La Géométrie from the Latin and French and (with W W Beman) Felix Klein's Vortrage über ausgewählte Fragen Elementar-geometrie under the title Famous Problems of Elementary Geometry.

We noted above that Smith wrote a large number of school level textbooks, mostly in collaboration with colleagues. Some of these were written for those teaching children while others were written as textbooks for children to use. We have given a selection of 37 such books and presented short extracts from reviews to these books at THIS LINK.

We have divided Smith's papers (somewhat arbitrarily) into four headings: History papers; Obituaries and biographies; Mathematical Education papers; and Autograph papers. Most of his papers fall naturally into one of these categories, but some Mathematical Education papers contain historical material while other papers, such as his report on the International Congress of Mathematicians held in Zurich in 1932, do not naturally fall under any of these headings. The headings are, for the most part, clear descriptors of the papers under those heading except for Autograph papers. These papers present letters by famous mathematicians that Smith collected during his travels. We give a couple of sentences from each paper to indicate the flavour of the paper. Under each of the four headings we list a collection of papers by Smith and give some short extracts from reviews of these papers. We note that, totalling the number of papers under all the headings, this still amounts to only a small selection of the many papers and articles that he wrote.

For Smith's History papers see THIS LINK.

For Smith's Obituaries and biographies see THIS LINK.

For Smith's Mathematical Education papers see THIS LINK.

For Smith's Autograph papers see THIS LINK.

Let us make a few remarks about some of these papers.

  1. The History Papers. The papers 9, 11 and 12 tell us about Smith's love of Paris. The paper 19 is of particular interest for, not only does Smith rightly criticise G A Miller, but he also gives us an indication of what he considers to be the requirements of a good review. Paper 22 gives some of the background to his famous A Source Book in the History of Mathematics which adds to the information given in the Preface to that book.

  2. The Obituaries. Of particular interest here is paper 13 which is Smith's obituary of Sir Thomas Little Heath. In it Smith indicates what qualities are needed by the good historian of mathematics - all qualities which Smith himself had in abundance.

  3. The Mathematical Education Papers. Paper 1 is one of Smith's early papers and combines his interests in history and teaching. It also shows Smith's confidence to criticise the approach of others. Paper 9 is a particularly passionate statement about pure mathematics while paper 12 asks - why study mathematics?

JOC/EFR April 2015

The URL of this page is:
http://www-history.mcs.st-andrews.ac.uk/Extras/SmithOverview.html