George E. Andrews, the editor of this and a subsequent volume that together contain MacMahon's major papers, writes that "there are several compelling reasons for publishing the Collected Papers of Percy Alexander MacMahon (1854-1929):
"First, MacMahon's researches in combinatorics were ahead of his time. In studying the literature of MacMahon's day, we find that while MacMahon was a prolific writer (as these Collected Papers confirm), his discoveries generated little work by others on combinatorics. Within the past twenty years, however, combinatorics has undergone a remarkable renaissance, and a random check through the Science Citation Index indicates clearly that MacMahon's work is no longer neglected.
"Second, well over twenty-five percent of MacMahon's papers appeared after the publication of his historic two volume work, Combinatory Analysis |1915, 1916|.... This later work includes his extensive researches on determinants, his book and papers on repeating patterns, and numerous contributions to combinatorics, notably his enumeration of the partitions of a multipartite number. Furthermore, less than twenty percent of all his papers are referred to in Combinatory Analysis; the impact of Combinatory Analysis alone on the contemporary scientific community suggests the importance of publishing all MacMahon's papers...."
The papers in this first volume are grouped by subject area: symmetric functions (18 papers), the Master Theorem (2 papers), permutations (9 papers), compositions and Simon Newcomb's problem (4 papers), perfect partitions (4 papers), distributions upon a chess board and Latin Squares (3 papers), multipartite numbers (5 papers), partitions (6 papers), partition analysis (9 papers), and plane and solid partitions (4 papers). This sequence of topics closely parallels the thematic development of MacMahon's Combinatory Analysis.
Each topical group is preceded by an introduction and commentary that relates the papers to contemporary developments, a summary of each of the papers, and in two chapters, additional commentary in the form of related papers by other mathematicians, namely, P. Hall and D. E. Littlewood.
About: This first volume of the collected papers of MacMahon is a member of the series Mathematicians of Our Time and takes its place among the previously published collections of the work of Paul Erdös, Einar Hille, Charles Loewner, George Pólya, Hans Rademacher, Stanislaw Ulam, Norbert Wiender, and Oscar Zariski.
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