Heath: Mathematics in Aristotle Preface

Thomas Heath died in 1940 and after his death his wife, Ada Mary Heath, discovered an unpublished manuscript of a book entitled Mathematics in Aristotle that her husband had been working on. Ada Mary Heath describes the events leading to its publication as the book: T L Heath, Mathematics in Aristotle (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1949) in the Preface:-

Mathematics in Aristotle is the result of work done during the last years of my husband's life, which he devoted to reading all that had been written on the subject and to making his own translations from the Greek.

His eagerness to return to this work too soon after a serious illness in 1939 was probably instrumental in hastening his end.

After his death in 1940 I found the manuscript (which I took to be unfinished) and consulted Sir David Ross as to the possibility of getting it completed. He most kindly read it through and, to my immense satisfaction, reported that the rough copy was, in fact, complete and advised that the fair copy, much of which was already done, should be finished in typescript.

This I undertook to do myself, and it proved not only a welcome distraction from the more disturbing elements of 'total war', but, in addition, an unexpectedly enjoyable introduction to the fascinating world of Aristotle, which I had hitherto regarded as far above the head of one not a classical scholar. I had, however, not failed to remark the concomitance of Aristotelian learning with a love of music. During a short visit to Corpus Christi College during the presidency of Thomas Case, I had the unforgettable experience, having returned somewhat early from a Balliol Sunday concert, of discovering the President and my husband playing, by candle-light on the Broadwood grand piano, with unrestrained fortissimo, the four-hand arrangements of Haydn Symphonies. The conventional fiction obtained that my being a professional pianist precluded such indulgence within my hearing!

My very grateful thanks are due to Sir David Ross for his invaluable help and encouragement. For the reading of the proofs I am indebted to him and to Mr Ivor Thomas, M.P., whose knowledge of Greek mathematics has been of the greatest assistance. Having no Greek myself, I have to thank Mr. Kerry Downes and Mr P R W Holmes for their assistance in transcribing the Greek quotations, and also my son Geoffrey T Heath who, since his demobilization, has helped me in reading proofs and revising Greek quotations, mathematical figures, and formulae.

I regret the absence of a bibliography, as my husband left no note of authorities consulted, though some indications are given in footnotes as well as in the text.


Last Updated March 2006