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Numbers Rule by George Szpiro

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CHAPTER SEVEN

THE MATHEMATICIAN

When writing his essay in 1785, Condorcet was apparently already aware of Borda’s contribution of 1781. He admitted as much in a caustic footnote in which he acknowledged that the existence of Borda’s paper had been pointed out to him by friends, at a time when his own paper was already being printed. Somewhat patronizingly, he claimed that he would not have known anything about the paper save for the fact that some people had mentioned it to him. As is now believed, however, Condorcet was being less than truthful. In 1781, he was the perpetual secretary of the Académie des Sciences, and as such was responsible for editing the academy’s Mémoires. He could not have been unaware of what was being printed. More likely, ...

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