BOWDITCH, Nathaniel, American mathe matician: b. Salem, Mass., 26 March 1773; d. Boston, 16 March 1838. The son of a cooper he went to school till 10 years of age, when he entered his father's shop. Later he was appren ticed to the ship chandlery business, which he followed till he went to sea. He studied inces santly, during intervals of business and in morning and night hours. Mathematics was the science in which he was most interested, and he mastered algebra and Latin unaided. He had a teacher for French, and in later life he took up Spanish, Italian and German. He learned navigation and was an omnivorous reader. In 1795 he made his first voyage as clerk, as supercargo (1796-98) and in the course of five long voyages rose to he master in 1802. His work The New American Practical Navigator' (1802, 1912) was made the standard authority of the United States Navy Department on the subject of navigation, and under the direction of the Secretary of the Navy was revised in 1880, 1903 and 1911. A new and revised edition
of his 'Useful Tables from the American Practical Navigator' was also issued in 1912 under orders of the department. Harvard College gave him a degree of M.A. and offered him the professorship of mathematics, which he declined, as he also did a similar offer from the University of Virginia and the United States Military Academy. Between 1814 and 1817 he translated Laplace's celeste,' and appended to it an elaborate commentary. He contributed largely to scientific periodicals, his articles being principally on mathematics and astronomy. He was admitted as a fellow to the Royal Society of London.