Whenever new PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) results are announced, or some journalist writes a piece on the latest state of French baccalauréat exams, many people take a critical look at educational matters and make comparisons. I think a little example from the dusty pages of the history of mathematics can shed some light at the level of high school education in France back in 1800s, that is, almost 220 years ago. Who knows, it might even give some inspiration to people who want to check their standards.
The example is about the famous German mathematician Gauss: He wrote a remarkable book in 1798, humbly titled as “Disquisitiones Arithmeticae” (“Arithmetical Investigations”). The book was first published in 1801, and only 6 years later it was translated into French and published in 1807 as “Recherches arithmétiques“.
The translator of this important book was Antoine Charles Marcelin Poullet-Delisle, a math teacher at a high school: Lycée d’Orléans. Another French high school teacher, Louis Poinsot, wrote a long review about the translation in a daily newspaper on 21 March 1807, Saturday. Poinsot was a mathematics teacher at Lycée Bonaparte in Paris, just like the French translator of Gauss’s book.
The archives of the daily newspaper where Poinsot published his review of “Recherches arithmétiques” is available online at DigiNole Home » FSU Digital Library » Napoleonic Collections » Le Moniteur universel » Moniteur universel
And you can read the review on the second page of the newspaper: Read the rest of this entry »