Did engineers like I.K. Brunel and his contemporaries employ calculus in their constructions? Or did they work just with 'rules of the thumb' and useful 'laws' like the square-cube...? What was the level of maths (beyond simple algebra and trigonometry) used by engineers in those times?


Brunel (1806-1859) in 1822 was a candidate to the École Polytechnique.

Augustin-Louis Cauchy (1789-1857) graduated in civil engineering and in 1816 was appointed professor at École Polytechnique.

The seminal Cours d'Analyse was published by Cauchy in 1821 as Cours d'Analyse de l’École Royale Polytechnique.

On this ground, we have to presume that the calculus was part of Brunel's professional knowledge.

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    $\begingroup$ It would be interesting if the curriculum for engineers at École Polytechnique in 1822 could be found. $\endgroup$ Dec 6 '18 at 13:20
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    $\begingroup$ I don't doubt the mathematical prowess of Brunel, to say nothing of Cauchy. What I'm asking is about the maths that 19th century engineers used in practice... $\endgroup$
    – xxavier
    Dec 6 '18 at 17:15
  • $\begingroup$ He was not accepted to Ecole polytechnique. So its curriculum is irrelevant when we are talking about Brunel. He previously studied in a prestigious Lycee Henri IV, but it is not clear whether he was taught calculus. It is more likely that he was self-educated in higher mathematics. $\endgroup$ Dec 6 '18 at 19:12

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