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Joost Buergi

28 Feb 1552, Lichtensteig, Switzerland
31 Jan 1632, Kassel, Hesse-Kassel (now Germany)

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Bürgi was a Swiss mathematician who discovered logarithms independently of the Scottish mathematician Napier.




Joost Bürgi was the most skilful, and the most famous, clockmaker of his day. He also made important scientific instruments, notably for the Landgraf of Hesse-Kassel Wilhelm der Weise, who combined ruling his state with being a first class astronomer. (Although historians do not usually mention the fact, the Landgraf's observations, particularly those of the fixed stars, were on the whole at least as accurate as Tycho Brahe's).

Later Bürgi also worked for the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolph II, and his successor Matthias (in Prague). Bürgi took a serious interest in mathematics, and it was to him that Johannes Kepler (1571 -1630), then Imperial Mathematician, was indebted for his introduction to algebra. In exchange (as it were) it seems to have been Kepler who persuaded Bürgi into writing up his original and interesting work on logarithms (the manuscript is largely in Kepler's handwriting), printed in 1620. Bürgi's method is different from that of Napier and was clearly invented independently.

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