Calculus made easy (really)

calculus2For some reason I didn’t expect someone writing in 1910 to have such a wonderful sense of humour – most books from this time seemed filled with a sense of their own self-importance and a singular lack of sympathy towards the uninitiated.

But not this one: I was hooked on Silvanus P. Thompson’s book from the moment I read the title of the first chapter “To deliver you from the preliminary terrors” (notation explained!). And as I read further I came across this delightful paragraph:

We call the ratio dy/dx “the differential coefficient of y with respect to x.” It is a solemn scientific name for this very simple thing. But we are not going to be frightened by solemn names, when the things themselves are so easy. Instead of being frightened we will simply pronounce a brief curse on the stupidity of giving long crack-jaw names; and having relieved our minds, will go on to the simple thing itself, namely the ratio dy/dx

And the thing is he really does make it simple and understandable, while at the same time I was able to laugh (for the first time in 2 tortured weeks!) at how terrified I was to be starting to learn Calculus – fantastic.

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