John Dee arguing for positions…

[John Dee, arguing for positions of Math Reader and the development of studies in mathematics at Cambridge and Oxford (roles he could have contentedly filled) in his Euclid preface. Mathematics was not a traditional part of the curriculum, and the nation needed better trained and qualified workers:]

“Of these feats (farther applied) is sprung the feat of Geodesie, or Land Measuring: more cunningly to measure & Survey Land, Woods, and Waters, afar off. More cunningly, I say: but God knoweth (hitherto) in these Realms of England and Ireland (whether through ignorance or fraud, I cannot tell, in every particular) how great wrong and iniury hath (in my time) been committed by untrue measuring and surveying of Land or Woods, any way. And, this I am sure: that the value of the difference, between the truth and such surveys, would have been able to have funded (for ever) in each of our two Universities, an excellent Mathematical Reader: to each, allowing (yearly) a hundred Marks of lawful money of this realm: which, indeed, would seem requisite, here, to be had (though by other ways provided for) as well, as, the famous Uniuersitie of Paris, hath two Mathematical Readers: and each, two hundred French Crowns yearly, of the French Kings magnificent liberality only.”

Pasted from The Mathematicall Praeface to Elements of Geometrie of Euclid of Megara by John Dee at <>

[(Dee’s use of the word “cunning” is interesting. Today it has a connotation of having one’s own hidden agenda – offers “shifty,” “insidious,” and “Machiavellian.” In Dee’s time, perhaps it just meant “clever.” Yet in his time folk magicians – conjurers or wizards – were also called “cunning” men, so we’re struck that Dee would chose to use the word “cunning” when he was so sensitive to being accused of conjuring. offers the two meanings:

1. skill employed in a shrewd or sly manner, as in deceiving; craftiness; guile.
2. adeptness in performance; dexterity: The weaver’s hand lost its cunning.


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