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That the grounds, or fundamental parts, of every science, are dull and unentertaining, is a complaint universally made, and a truth not to be denied ; but then, what is obtained with difficulty is usually remembered with ease; and what is purchased with pain is often possessed with pleasure. The seeds of knowledge are sown in every soil, but it is by proper culture alone that they are cherished and brought to naturity. A few years of early and assiduous appliration never fails to procure us the reward of our industry ; and who is there, who knows the pleasures and advantages which ihe sciences afford, that would think his time, in this case, misspent, or his labours useless ; riches and honours are the gifts of fortune, casually bestowed, or hereditarily received, and are frequently abus. ed by their possessors ; but the superiority of wisdom and knowledge is a pre-eminence of merit, which originates with the man, and is the noblest of all distinctions.
Nature, bountiful and wise in all things, has provided us with an infinite variety of scenes, both for our instruction and entertainment ; and, like a kind and indulgent parent, admits all her children to an equal participation of her blessings. But, as the modes, situations, and circumstances of life are various, so accident, habit, and education, have each their predominating influence, and give to every mind its particular bias. Where examples of excellence are wanting, the atteinpts to attain it are but few ; but emi. nence excites attention, and produces imitation. To raise the curiosity, and to awaken the listless and dormant powers of younger minds, we have only to point out to them a valuable acquisition, and the means of obtaining it; the active principles are immediately put into motion, and the certainty of the conquest is ensured from a determination to conquer.
But, of all the sciences which serve to call forth this spirit of enterprize and inquiry, there are none more eminently useful than Mathematics. By an early attachment to these elegant and sublime studies, we acquire a habit of reasoning, and an elevation of thought, which fixes the mind, and prepares it for every other pursuit. From a
few simple axioms, and evident principles, we proceed gradually to the most general propositions, and remote analogies ; deducing one truth from another, in a chain of argument well connected and logically pursued; which brings us at last, in the most satisfactory manner, to the conclusion, and serves as a general direction in all our inquiries after truth.
And it is not only in this respect that mathematical learning is so highly valuable ; it is, likewise, equally estimable for its practical utility. Almost all the works of art and devices of man, have a dependence upon its principles, and are indebted to it for their origin and perfection. The cultivation of these admirable sciences is, therefore, a thing of the utmost importance, and ought to be considered as a principal part of every liberal and well-regulated plan of education. They are the guide of our youth, the perfection of our reason, and the foundation of every great and noble undertaking.
From these considerations, I have been induced to compose an introductory course of mathematical science ; and from the kind encouragement which I have hitherto received, am not without hopes of a continuance of the same candour and approbation. Considerable practice as a teacher, and a long attention to the difficulties and obstructions which retard the progress of learners in general, have enabled me to accommodate myself the more easily to their capacities and understandings. And as an earnest desire of promoting and diffusing useful knowledge is the chief motive for this undertaking, so no pains or attention shall be wanting to make it as complete and perfect as possible.
The subject of the present performance is ALGEBRA ; which is one of the most important and useful branches of those sciences, and may be justly considered as the key to all the rest. Geometry delights us by the simplicity of its principles, and the elegance of its demonstrations ; Arithmetic is contined to its object, and partial in its application; but Algebra or the Analytic Art, is general and comprehensive, and may be applied with success in all cases where
truth is to be obtained and proper data can be established.
To trace this science to its birth, and to point out the various alterations and improvements it has undergone in its progress, would far exceed the limits of a preface.* It will be sufficient to observe that the invention is of the highest antiquity, and has challenged the praise and admiration of all ages. Diophantus, a Greek mathematician, of Alexandria in Egypt, who flourished in or about the third century after Christ, appears to have been the first, among the ancients, who applied it to the solution of indeterminate or unlimited problems ; but it is to the moderns that we are principally indebted for the most curious refinements of the art, and its great and extensive usefulness in every abstruse and difficult inquiry. Newton, Maclaurin, Saunderson, Simpson, and Emerson, among our own countrymen, and Clairaut, Euler, Lagrange, and Lacroix. on the continent, are those who have particularly excelled in this respect ; and it is to their works that I would refer the young student, as the patterns of elegance and perfection.
The following compendium is formed entirely upon the model of those writers, and is intended as a useful and necessary introduction to them. Almost every subject, which belongs to pure Algebra, is concisely and distinctly treated of; and no pains have been spared to make the whole as easy and intelligible as possible. A great number of elementary books have already been written upon this subject ; but there are none, which I have yet seen, but what appear to me to be extremely defective. Besides being totally unfit for the purpose of teaching, they are generally calculated to vitiate the taste, and mislead the judgment. A tedious and inelegant method prevails through the whole, so that the beauty of the science is generally destroyed by the clumsy and awkward manner in which it is treated; and the learner, when he is afterwards introduced to some
* Those who are desirous of a knowledge of this kind, may consult the Introduction to my Treatise on Algebra; where they will find a regular historical detail of the rise and progress of the science, from its first rude begiahings to the present times.
of our best writers, is obliged, in a great measure, to unlearn and forget every thing which he has been at so much pains in acquiring.
There is a certain taste and elegance in the sciences, as well as in every branch of polite literature, which is only to be obtained from the best authors, and a judicious use of their instructions. To direct the student in his choice of books, and to prepare him properly for the advantages he may receive from them, is therefore the business of every writer who engages in the humble, but useful task of a preliminary tutor. This information I have been careful to give, in every part of the present performance, where it appeared to be in the least necessary; and, though the nature and confined limits of my plan admitted not of diffuse observations, or a formal enumeration of particulars, it is presumed nothing of real use and importance has been omitted. My principal object was to consult the ease, satisfaction, and accommodation of the learner; and the favourable reception the work has met with from the public, has afforded me the gratification of believing that my labours have not been unsuccessfully employed.
The present performance having passed through a number of editions since the time of its first publication, without any material alterations having been made, either with respect to its original plan, or the manner in which it was executed, I have been induced, from the flattering approbation it has constantly received, to undertake an entire revision of the work; and, by availing myself of the improvements that have been subsequently inade in the science, to render it still more deserving the public favour.
In its present state, it may be considered as a copious abridgment of the most practical and useful parts of my larger work, entitled, A Treatise on Algebra, in 2 vols. 8vo. published in 1813; from which, except in certain cases, where a different mode of proceeding appeared to be necessary, it has been chiefly compiled : great care having been taken, at the same time, to adapt it, as much as possible, to the wants of the learners, and the general purposes of instruction, agreeably to the design with which it was first written.