Adam Ries

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Adam Ries at the age of 58 (1550): the only contemporary illustration of the arithmetic master

Adam Ries (often also Adam Riese ; *  1492 or 1493 in Staffelstein , Fürstbistum Bamberg , † March 30 or April 2, 1559 probably in Annaberg or Wiesa ) was a German arithmetic master . He became known for his textbook, Invoice on the Linihen und Federn [...] , which was published at least 120 times until the 17th century. It is noteworthy that Adam Ries wrote his works not - as was customary at the time - in Latin, but in German. As a result, he reached a large readership and was also able to contribute to the standardization of the German language.

Adam Ries is considered the "father of modern arithmetic". With his works, he made a decisive contribution to the fact that the Roman numerical representation was recognized as unwieldy and largely replaced by the Indian-Arabic numerals structured according to the place value system . His name is generally known from the phrase "after Adam Riese" .


Relay stone

Bronze sculpture in Staffelstein

Adam Ries came from Staffelstein , in the preface to his "Coß" he gives information about it himself. His father Contz Ries was the owner of the stock mill there , his mother his second wife Eva Kittler.

The year of birth cannot be clearly determined. The legend on the only known contemporary portrait of the arithmetic master reads: ANNO 1550 ADAM RIES SEINS ALTERS IM LVIII . If he was 58 years old in 1550, he must have been born in 1492 or 1493, depending on when he turned 58.

The first decades after Ries was born are not documented, so it is not known which school he attended. Also in the registers of the universities that were already in existence at that time there is no reference to a degree from the future arithmetic master. In 1509 he stayed in Zwickau with his younger brother Conrad , who attended Latin school there.

The oldest known documentary mention of Adam Ries comes from April 22nd, 1517, when he appeared before the Staffelsteiner Council because of an inheritance dispute.


In 1518 Ries went to Erfurt , where he ran an arithmetic school. In Erfurt he wrote two of his arithmetic books and had them printed there by Mathes Maler.


In 1522 he moved to the young city of Annaberg , which was characterized by silver ore mining, and where he spent the rest of his life. He opened a private arithmetic school in Johannisgasse. Today the house houses the Adam Ries Museum.

In 1524 Ries finished work on the Coß manuscript , a textbook on algebra with more than 500 pages ( Coß is the name customarily used in the Middle Ages for the variable or unknown). The Coß is a link between medieval and modern algebra. The manuscript was available to his sons and students as well as to other mathematically interested people from his environment, but it was not published at the time. The printing would have caused enormous costs and other German mathematicians published comparable illustrations between 1520 and 1550. The complete manuscript was first printed in 1992.

In 1525 the marriage to Anna Leuber, a daughter of the Freiberg master locksmith Andreas Leuber, was recorded in the wedding book of the Annaberg St. Anne's Church : "Adam Reyeß Anna Filia Anders lewbers vo Freybergk". In the same year he took the citizenship oath . He initially earned his bread as a review writer with accounts for the individual ore mines, later he checked these accounts as a counter- writer and, as a tenth, ensured that the sovereign received his share of the profit.

Ries took over responsible activities in the Saxon mining administration. In the era of the flourishing mining industry, the provision of food, especially bread, to the rapidly growing population was of particular importance. Bread had fixed prices: Groschenbrot, two-penny loaf and pfennig rolls were sold. The fluctuations in grain prices were taken into account with different sized loaves of bread. On behalf of the city of Annaberg, Ries developed the so-called “Annaberger Bread Ordinance” to protect the population.

In 1539 he acquired the "giant castle" named after him, an outbuilding outside the city, the buildings of which still bear the name today. His last work appeared in print in 1550.

Adam Ries died in 1559, the traditional data differ between March 30th and April 2nd. The exact place of death is also not known, Annaberg or Wiesa .

Name variants

Contemporary spellings

Because the case was not then established names like today, are as contemporary notations next Ries also Ris , Rise , Ryse and even Reyes's known.

"After Adam Riese"

The two forms of the name Ries and Riese are used today . The form giant is also used in the phrase "after Adam Riese" .

The phrase “that's what Adam Riese does” is still used today to underline the correctness of a calculation result. It was already common in the 18th century. Abraham Gotthelf Kästner, for example, writes in his History of Mathematics 1796: "According to Adam Riesen, a calculation has long been an assurance of the truth, as was the case with the experts in geometry, QED " ( Abraham Gotthelf Kästner :) A text published in 1785 explains: "Proverb , which is not only known in Swabia, but also in our regions: According to Adam Giant's arithmetic book. [...] He was a German, lived in Annaberg and his examples were so artificial and ingenious that at that time it was thought to be the most perfect calculator that could resolve everything that was in Adam Giant's book. "( Georg Friederich Götz :)


Invoice on the linihen title page of the Erfurt edition of 1525

Adam Ries wrote three arithmetic books for teaching in arithmetic schools and for the training of business people and craftsmen:

  • Calculation auff der linihen (1518): Ries describes calculating on the lines of a calculation board . According to the foreword of the second edition, it is expressly intended for children.
  • Arithmetic on the lines and springs ... (1522): In addition to calculating on the abacus, in this book he describes numerical calculations with Indian / Arabic numerals . It was published over a hundred times during his lifetime, and so far at least 120 times, and established his reputation as a German arithmetic master.
  • Calculation according to the length / on the lines and spring /.../ with green teaching of sighting. (1550): Often cited under the short title “Practica”, since the same practical examples are calculated with different methods in the individual chapters. In addition to his earlier books, Ries also dealt with “sighting”, the very important calculation of the contents of barrels at the time. For the first time, the book also shows a portrait of the author, which is the only contemporary picture of Ries that gives any indication of the year of his birth.

Ries wrote his books in German. This promoted their spread in the German-speaking area and contributed to the standardization of the German language.

Ries designed the Annaberg Bread Ordinance, which regulated the permissible weight deviations with a collection of tables. Later Adam Ries created similar bread orders for Joachimsthal , Zwickau , Hof and Leipzig .:

  • A calculated booklet / auff den Schöffel / bucket / and pound weight ... (Manuscript 1533, print 1536): A book with tables for the calculation of everyday prices; a kind of guide, which - according to Ries in the foreword - helps "that the poor common man would not be translated by bread-buying".

In 1524 Ries finished work on the Coß manuscript , a more than 500-page textbook on algebra.


With his wife Anna he fathered at least eight children. Three of the five sons, Adam, Abraham and Jacob, were temporarily active as arithmetic masters in Annaberg. While Abraham and Jacob died in their homeland in 1604, Adam is said to have settled in the Harz Mountains. The fourth son, Isaac, moved to Leipzig, where he worked, among other things, as a visor (calibration master). Paul, the fifth son, became a landowner and judge in Wiesa. The three daughters Eva, Anna and Sybilla each married in Annaberg.

The descendants of Adam Ries are the subject of constant, extensive genealogical research. A large number of Adam Ries descendants still live in the Upper Ore Mountains today. The Adam Ries Association has set itself the task of identifying all of Adam Ries' descendants, and has so far recorded more than 24,000 direct descendants in its constantly updated database.



Adam Ries monument at St. Trinity Church in Annaberg-Buchholz, 2001
Bust in Erfurt, 2006


  • 1893: bust of Robert Henze . On the occasion of Adam Ries' 400th birthday, the Annaberg History Society decided in 1891 to erect a monument to the arithmetic master. The sculpture made by the Dresden sculptor Henze could only be consecrated on November 5, 1893 due to financial difficulties. In 1943 the bronze bust was melted down for armament purposes and was only replaced by a sandstone copy ten years later. At the end of the 1970s, these were initially removed from the cityscape completely, as the material would cause a continual deterioration in their condition. It was not until 1991 that a new sandstone bust was erected in front of the St. Trinity Church. After being seriously damaged by vandalism in 1992, it was able to be reconstructed again through the initiative of the Adam Ries Association and was placed in front of the church again on the 100th anniversary of the first consecration. Since 2010, the monument has found its place in front of the Adam Ries Museum and seat of the Adam Ries Association in Annaberger Johannisgasse.

Bad Staffelstein

  • 1874: memorial plaque on the town hall
  • 1959: Sandstone relief by Karl Potzler on the town hall
  • 1980: Bronze relief by Hubert Weber in Bamberger Strasse
  • 1990: Bronze relief by Hubert Weber in Bahnhofstrasse
  • 1992: Bronze plaque by the sculptor Kerner at the entrance of the presumed former location of the birthplace of Adam Ries
  • 2009: Bronze statue by the sculptor Andreas Krämmer in Bahnhofstrasse on the occasion of the 450th anniversary of his death


  • 1992: Three-part ensemble with a bronze bust, text board and calculation board set into the pavement at Michaelisstraße 48

Postage stamps


  • On August 18, 1997, the asteroid (7655) Adamries was named after him.
  • Numerous schools bear the name Adam Ries . From 2008 to 2013, the Adam Ries University of Applied Sciences in Erfurt was named after him.
  • The Bad Staffelstein City Museum has dedicated a section to Adam Ries. Issued are among other things editions of his arithmetic books and an abacus.


New editions of Ries's writings

  • Wolfgang Kaunzner, Hans Wußing (Eds.): Coß , Teubner 1992 (Teubner Archive for Mathematics, Supplement 3)
    • An older edition appeared in: Bruno Berlet Adam Riese, his life, his arithmetic books. The Coß by Adam Riese , Leipzig, Frankfurt 1892
  • Rainer Gebhardt (Ed.): Insights into the Coß by Adam Ries: a selection from the original with current notes and comments , writings of the Adam-Ries-Bund Annaberg-Buchholz, Teubner 1994
  • Rainer Gebhardt (Ed.): The Annaberger Bread Order by Adam Ries (= writings of the Adam-Ries-Bund Annaberg-Buchholz. Vol. 16). Annotated and edited facsimile edition of the bread regulations created in 1533 and printed in 1536. Adam-Ries-Bund, Annaberg-Buchholz 2004, ISBN 3-930430-66-5 .
  • Stefan Deschauer (Hrsg.): Invoice on the line ... to the extent that one is used to learning in all arithmetic schools in a fundamental way, anno 1518 , Munich, Institute for the History of Natural Sciences 1992 (Algorism, Volume 6)
  • Stefan Deschauer (Ed.): Calculation on the lines and springs in zal, measure and weight on all kinds of handling made and read together by Adam Riesen von Staffelstein Rechenmeyster zu Erffurdt in 1522 Jar , Munich, Institute for the History of Natural Sciences 1991 (Algorismus, Volume 5)
  • Stefan Deschauer, Erich Wittmann (editor) The second arithmetic book by Adam Ries: a modern text version with commentary and metrological appendix and an introduction to the life and work of the arithmetic master , Braunschweig, Vieweg 1992 (the arithmetic book from 1522 in New High German translation)
  • Arithmetic book on lines and zip lines in all sorts of trades, trades and sales [...]. Frankfurt am Main 1574; Reprint 1954
  • A facsimile reprint of the Practica (1550) by Ries was published by Gerstenberg in Hildesheim in 1976
  • Christiane Brodersen, Kai Brodersen (eds.): Adam Ries: Das first Rechenbuch (Erfurt 1525), facsimile, transcription and transmission , Speyer 2018, ISBN 978-3-939526-38-4 , limited preview in the Google book search

Secondary literature

  • Moritz CantorGiant, Adam . In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB). Volume 28, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1889, p. 576 f.
  • Fritz Deubner : ... based on Adam Ries. Life and work of the great arithmetic master. 1st edition, 1st – 6th Thousand. Urania-Verlag, Leipzig et al. 1959.
  • Willy Roch : Adam Ries. The German people's arithmetic teacher. His life, his work and its meaning. Herfurth, Frankfurt am Main 1959.
  • Adam Rieß from Staffelstein. Arithmetic master and Cossist (= Staffelsteiner writings. Vol. 1). Verlag für Staffelsteiner Schriften, Staffelstein 1992, ISBN 3-9802943-0-7 .
  • Rainer Gebhardt (Ed.): Adam Ries - humanist, arithmetic master, mountain official (= writings of the Adam-Ries-Bund Annaberg-Buchholz. Vol. 1). Adam-Ries-Bund, Annaberg-Buchholz 1992, ISBN 3-930430-00-2 .
  • Georg Gehler, Wolfgang Lorenz : The new Adam-Ries descendant book (= writings of the Adam-Ries-Bund Annaberg-Buchholz. Vol. 8). Adam-Ries-Bund, Annaberg-Buchholz 1997, ISBN 3-930430-06-1 .
  • Wolfgang Kauzner: Adam Ries in the mirror of his algebraic manuscripts. In the appendix print of books II and III of the "Algebra des Initius Algebras" from the pen of Adam Ries in Codex Dresden C 349 (= Staffelsteiner Schriften. Vol. 8 = Schriften des Adam-Ries-Bund Annaberg-Buchholz. Vol. 10) . Adam-Ries-Bund, Annaberg-Buchholz 1998, ISBN 3-930430-23-1 .
  • Hans Burkhardt : Annaberger Adam Ries booklet. Story about the mathematician in pictures and words. Projekt-Verlag, Halle 2003, ISBN 3-931950-93-X .
  • Menso FolkertsRies (incorrectly: giant), Adam. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 21, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2003, ISBN 3-428-11202-4 , p. 605 f. ( Digitized version ).
  • Joachim Mehnert: True stories about Adam Ries (= True stories. No. 36). Tauchaer Verlag, Taucha 2003, ISBN 3-89772-066-3 .
  • Bernd Luderer (Ed.): Adam Ries and his "Coss". A Contribution to the Development of Algebra in 16th Century Germany (= Eagle 11 Eagle Insights ). With contributions by Wolfgang Kaunzner and Hans Wussing . Edition at Gutenbergplatz Leipzig, Leipzig 2004, ISBN 3-937219-11-0 .
  • Peter Rochhaus : Adam Ries. Father of modern computing. Sutton, Erfurt 2008, ISBN 978-3-86680-407-4 .
  • Wolfgang Blum: 450th anniversary of Adam Ries' death - huge mistake . In: Süddeutsche Zeitung , 28./29. March 2009.
  • Bernd Rüdiger , Wolfgang Lorenz: Sources on Adam Ries (= sources on the life and work of Adam Ries' and his sons. Vol. 1). Adam-Ries-Bund, Annaberg-Buchholz 2009, ISBN 978-3-930430-87-1 .
  • Jürgen Weiß: BG Teubner on the 225th birthday. Adam Ries, Völkerschlacht, FA Brockhaus, Augustusplatz, Leipziger Zeitung, Börsenblatt (= Eagle 35 Eagle Essay ). Edition at Gutenbergplatz Leipzig, Leipzig 2009, ISBN 978-3-937219-35-6 .
  • Hans Wussing: Adam Ries. 3rd, revised and expanded edition. (= Eagle 33 Eagle Essay ). Edition at Gutenbergplatz Leipzig, Leipzig 2009, ISBN 978-3-937219-33-2 .
  • Friedrich Naumann : The historical development of the Erzgebirge mining industry and Adam Ries as a "miner by the pen". In: Non-profit mathematics - Adam Ries and his consequences. Acta Academiae Scientiarum 8 (2003), Ed .: J. Kiefer u. K. Reich, Erfurt 2003, pp. 55–87. ISBN 3-932295-56-0 , ISSN  0942-9875 .
  • Friedrich Naumann: Adam Ries as "miner by the pen". In: Hans Wußing: Adam Ries. Leipzig 2009, pp. 151–158, ISBN 978-3-937219-33-2 .
  • Bernd Rüdiger: Adam Ries. Life and work of the most important German arithmetic master. Adam-Ries-Bund, Annaberg-Buchholz 2017. ISBN 978-3-944217-25-3

Web links

Commons : Adam Ries  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Adam Ries  - Sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Hans Wußing : 6000 years of mathematics. A cultural and historical journey through time. From the beginning to Leibniz and Newton . Springer, Berlin et al. 2008, ISBN 978-3-540-77189-0 , p. 334 .
  3. Peter Rochhaus: Historians still argue about the date of death of Adam Ries . In: Freie Presse, local edition Schwarzenberg, April 14, 2009, p. 18.
  4. ^ History of Mathematics. First volume. Göttingen, 1796 in the Google book search
  5. ^ Heinrich Sanders (...) Small writings. Second volume. Dessau and Leipzig, 1785 in the Google book search
  6. ^ Website of the Adam-Ries-Bund , sub- page descendant research / genealogy (accessed on August 19, 2020).
  7. Steffen Raßloff : That makes after Adam Ries ... To the Adam Ries monument . In: Thüringer Allgemeine from November 22, 2011.
  8. Bad Staffelstein City Museum