Paper Bulwarks and Digital Fortresses Mixed Methods for analyzing the Duytsche Mathematique

Activity: Talk or presentationAcademic


When the application of bastions in Dutch defense walls in the second half of the sixteenth century gradually developed into a polygonal fortification system in which the form of and distance between bastions was determined by the geometrics of the ground plan of the fortress or the perimeter of the town in question, mathematics became an essential part of the theory of fortification. This theory was taught in Latin at the University of Leiden in a philological way by humanists such as Scaliger and Lipsius. However, the multitude of fortification projects in Holland at the beginning of the Eight Years War required the engineers trained in the practice of fortification. To this end Prince Maurice of Nassau commissioned his tutor and advisor in military affairs Simon Stevin (1548-1640) to design an elementary program in landsurveying and arithmetics and geometry. In order to fulfill the large demand for engineers the program was also aimed at the enrollment of artisans of all sort of professions. For that reason these mathematical lessons were taught in the Dutch language, hence the Duytsche Mathematique. Following theories about fortification, education material of teachers of the Duytsche Mathematique (in particular of the family of mathematicians Van Schooten) and notes of students, we will discuss the required mathematical knowledge of courtiers, merchants and artisans. We claim that differences in the training material of these groups were social and cultural rather than content driven. In order to study contemporary perceptions of theorists and practioners of mathematics in the Dutch Republic we will focus on the role of training in the use of correct terminologies (essential for classification) and the making of drawings. For the analyses of terms and drawings in the mathematical design of fortifications in the Low Countries in the Early Modern Period a variety of digital methods such network analysis, topic modeling and virtual reality will be demonstrated.
Period04 Jul 2018
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • history of mathematics
  • history of fortification
  • digital humanities
  • history of education