, **baron** of Merchiston in Scotland, and the celebrated inventor of the

**baron**, **baron** **of** **Merchiston** **in**
**Scotland**, and the celebrated inventor of the Logarithms,
was the eldest son of sir Archibald Napier of Merchiston,
and born in 1550. After going through the ordinary course
of education at the university of St. Andrew’s, he made the
tour of France, Italy, and Germany. On his return he
applied himself chiefly to the study of mathematics, to
which he joined that of the Scriptures; and in both discovered the most extensive knowledge and profound penetration. His “Essay upon the book of the Apocalypse

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indicates the most acute investigation; though time has
discovered that his calculations concerning particular events
had proceeded upon fallacious data. But what his fame now
solely rests upon is his great and fortunate discovery of logarithms in trigonometry, by which the ease and expedition
in calculation have so wonderfully assisted the science of
astronomy and the arts of practical geometry and navigation. Napier, having much attachment to astronomy and
spherical trigonometry, had occasion to make many numeral calculations of such triangles, with sines, tangents,
&c. which being expressed in large numbers, occasioned
a great deal of labour and trouble: To spare themselves
part of this labour, Napier, and other authors about his
time, endeavoured to find out certain short modes of calculation, as is evident from many of their writings. To
this necessity, and these endeavours it is, that we owe several ingenious contrivances; particularly the computation
by Napier’s Rods, or Bones, as they are called, and several other curious and short methods that are given in his
“Rabdologia

” and at length, after trials of many other
means, the most complete one of logarithms, in the actual
construction of a large table of numbers in arithmetical
progression, adapted to a set of as many others in geometrical progression. The property of such numbers had
been long known, viz. that the addition of the former answered to the multiplication of the latter, &c. but it
wanted the necessity of such very troublesome calculations
as those abovementioned, joined to an ardent disposition,
to make such a use of that property. Perhaps also this
disposition was urged into action by certain attempts of this
kind which it seems were made elsewhere; such as the following, related by Wood 'in his “Athenae Oxonienses,

”
under the article Briggs, on the authority of Oughtred and
Wingate, viz. “That one Dr. Craig, a Scotchman, coming
out of Denmark into his own country, called upon John
Neper baron of Marcheston near Edinburgh, and told him,
among other discourses, of a new invention in Denmark,
(by Longomontanus as ‘tis said) to save the tedious multiplication and division in astronomical calculations. Neper
being solicitous to know farther of him concerning this
matter, he could give no other account of it, than that it
was by proportionable numbers. Which hint Neper taking,
he desired him at his return to call upon him again. Craig,
after some weeks had passed, did so, and Neper then
shewed him a rude draught of that he called ’ Canon Mirabilis Logarithmorum.' Which draught, with some alterations, he printed in 1614; it came forthwith into the
hands of our authorBriggs, and into thoseof William Oughtred, from whom the relation of this matter came.

”