Title page of a book of logarithmic tables by Napier, 1628.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
John Napier (1550-1617), Baron of Merchiston, spent 20 years on the research that would lead to the discovery of logarithms. Logarithms made the manipulation of large calculations simpler by adding or subtracting the index of two numbers and looking up the result in tables. This edition is one of the selection of tables collected by the British mathematician and computing pioneer Charles Babbage (1791-1871), who was a fastidious analyst of tabular error.