# The Last of the Magicians

# The Last of the Magicians

This chapter discusses Isaac Newton's contributions to algebra and mathematics, and particularly in terms of using symbols. It first examines Newton's idea of unknown variables as quantities flowing along a curve. Fluents, as he called them (from the Latin *fluxus*, which means “fluid”), were very close to the things that we now call dependent variables, our *x*'s, but limited by their dependence on time. Newton thought of curves as “flows of points” that represented quantities. According to Newton, the fundamental task of calculus was to find the fluxions of given fluents and the fluents of given fluxions. The chapter also considers Newton's work on infinitesimals and how his invention of calculus advanced a wide range of fields such as architecture, astronomy, chemistry, optics, and thermodynamics. It also describes some of the major developments that occurred in the fifty years following Newton's death.

*Keywords:*
calculus, Isaac Newton, algebra, mathematics, symbols, fluents, dependent variables, curves, fluxions, infinitesimals

Princeton Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.

Please, subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs , and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us.