Nicolas Chuquet

Quick Info

Paris, France
Lyon, France

Nicolas Chuquet was a French mathematician who wrote the earliest French algebra book.


Nicolas Chuquet describes himself as a Parisian and says that he is a bachelor of medicine. We do know that he moved to Lyon in around 1480 since his name appears in the Lyon tax registers of the time. For example in the registers of 1485 and 1487 he is described as "Nicolas Chuquet, algoriste".

Very little else is known about his life except that he earned his living as a copyist or writing master. Evidence of Italian links in his writings could indicate that he had visited Italy, but it is equally possible that these links come from the large Italian community living in Lyon at the time Chuquet lived there.

Chuquet wrote an important text Triparty en la science des nombres. This is the earliest French algebra book although for some time La Roche was thought to have written the first French algebra. Chasles pointed out, in 1841, that La Roche's work held this distinction, but also pointed to a lost work of Chuquet as being earlier. When Chuquet's manuscript was found it was seen at once that La Roche had copied Chuquet's Triparty en la science des nombres. The manuscript of Triparty en la science des nombres even contained annotations in La Roche's handwriting.

The Triparty en la science des nombres covers arithmetic and algebra. It was not printed however until 1880 so was of little influence. The first part deals with arithmetic and includes work on fractions, progressions, perfect numbers, proportion etc. In this work negative numbers, used as coefficients, exponents and solutions, appear for the first time. Zero is used and his rules for arithmetical operations includes zero and negative numbers. He also uses x0=1x^{0} = 1 for any number xx.

The sections on equations cover quadratic equations where he discusses two solutions.

References (show)

  1. J Itard, Biography in Dictionary of Scientific Biography (New York 1970-1990). See THIS LINK.
  2. G Flegg, C Hay and B Moss (eds.), Nicolas Chuquet, Renaissance mathematician (Dordrecht-Boston, Mass., 1985).
  3. G Beaujouan, The place of Nicolas Chuquet in a typology of fifteenth- century French arithmetics, in C Hay (ed.), Mathematics from manuscript to print 1300-1600 (Oxford, 1988), 73-88.
  4. P Benoit, The commercial arithmetic of Nicolas Chuquet, in C Hay (ed.), Mathematics from manuscript to print 1300-1600 (Oxford, 1988), 96-116.
  5. G Flegg, Nicolas Chuquet - an introduction, in C Hay (ed.), Mathematics from manuscript to print 1300-1600 (Oxford, 1988), 59-72.
  6. H L'Huilleur, Eléments nouveaux pour la biographie de Nicolas Chuquet, Rev. Histoire Sci. Appl. 29 (4) (1976), 347-350.
  7. H L'Huillier, Concerning the method employed by Nicolas Chuquet for the extraction of cube roots, in C Hay (ed.), Mathematics from manuscript to print 1300-1600 (Oxford, 1988), 89-95.
  8. C Lambo, Une algèbra française de 1484. Nicolas Chuquet, Revue des questions scientifique 2 (1902), 442-472.
  9. B Moss, Chuquet's mathematical executor : could Estienne de la Roche have changed the history of algebra?, in C Hay (ed.), Mathematics from manuscript to print 1300-1600 (Oxford, 1988), 117-126.
  10. T A Tokareva, Chuquet's algebra (Russian), Istor.-Mat. Issled. 23 (1978), 270-283, 359.

Additional Resources (show)

Other websites about Nicolas Chuquet:

  1. Dictionary of Scientific Biography

Honours (show)

Written by J J O'Connor and E F Robertson
Last Update December 1996