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Printing and Calculus May 19, 2006

Posted by dfhuynh in research.

More quotations from Understanding Media (Marshall McLuhan):

In chapter 9, "The Written Word: An Eye for An Ear":

Prince Modupe wrote of his encounter with the written word in his West African days:

The one crowded space in Father Perry's house was his bookshelves. I gradually came to understand that the marks on the pages were trapped words. Anyone could learn to decipher the symbols and turn the trapped words loose again into speech. The ink of the print trapped the thoughts; they could no more get away than a doomboo could get out of a pit. When the full realization of what this meant flooded over me, I experienced the same thrill and amazement as when I had my first glimpse of the bright lights of Konakry. I shivered with the intensity of my desire to learn to do this wondrous thing myself.


In chapter 11, "Number: Profile of the Crowd":

For the Renaissance, it was the infinitesimal calculus that enabled arithmetic to take over mechanics, physics, and geometry. The idea of an infinite but continuous and uniform process, so basic to the Gutenberg technology of movable types, gave rise to the calculus. Banish the infinite process and mathematics, pure and applied, is reduced to the state known to the pre-Pythagoreans. This is to say, banish the new medium of print with its fragmented technology of uniform, lineal repeatability, and modern mathematics disappears. Apply, however, this infinite uniform process to finding the length of an arc, and all that need be done is to inscribe in the arc a sequence of rectilinear contours of an increasing number of sides… [p.117]

 "Standing on the shoulders of giants" now means something even larger.



1. chris44 - August 31, 2006

I didn ‘t have good grades in calculus either. I almost failed that subject in college. I’d rather settle with geometry than calculus.

2. Toni Smith - April 8, 2007

I stumbled across this website while searching for information on my grandfather, Prince Modupe. It is quite an honor to see his words still resounding many years after he put them down on paper. Thank you for keeping his memory alive by making his words come to life.

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