# Past History of Mathematics

In 1897 J.J. Thomson 'discovered' the electron. The previous year, he and his research student Ernest Rutherford (later to 'discover' theatomic nucleus), collaborated in experiments to work out why gases exposed to x-rays became conducting.

This talk will discuss the very different mathematical educations of the two men, and the impact these differences had on their experimental investigation and the theory they arrived at. This theory formed the backdrop to Thomson's electron work the following year.

James Clerk Maxwell (1831–1879) was, by any measure, a natural philosopher of the first rank who made wide-ranging contributions to science. He also, however, wrote poetry.

In this talk examples of Maxwell’s poetry will be discussed in the context of a biographical sketch. It will be argued that not only was Maxwell a good poet, but that his poetry enriches our view of his life and its intellectual context.

The birth of fixed-wing, powered flight in the first decade of the twentieth century brought with it significant potential for pilots to return to Earth by unintended, often fatal, means. I will discuss the nature of the contemporary mathematical and engineering debates associated with these facets of flight, and the practical steps taken to facilitate safer aircraft and more robust operating procedures.

In 1933, lattice theory was a new subject, put forth by Garrett Birkhoff. In contrast, in 1940, it was already a mature subject, worth publishing a book on. Indeed, the first monograph, written by the same G. Birkhoff, was the result of these 7 years of working on a lattice theory. In my talk, I would like to focus on this fast development. I will present the notion of a theory not only as an actors' category but as an historical category. Relying on that definition, I would like to focus on some collaborations around the notion of lattices. In particular, we will study lattice theory as a meeting point between the works of G. Birkhoff and two other mathematicians: John von Neumann and Marshall Stone.

Part of the series "What do historians of mathematics do?"

The talk will set out the key debate in England at the Restoration, the need for a new orientation in mathematics towards algebra and the new "analysis". It will focus on efforts by three central players in England's mathematical community, John Pell, John Collins, and the Oxford mathematician John Wallis to produce an English language algebra text which would play a pioneering role in promoting this change. What was the background to the work we now call Pell's *Algebra* and why was it so significant?

Part of the series "What do historians of mathematics do?"

In the last year of 14th century, a French mathematician/geometer Jean Mignot, was called from Paris to help with the construction of the Cathedral of Milan. Thus was created one of the most famous stories about how mathematics literally supports great works of art, helping them stand the test of time. This talk will look at some patterns that begin to become apparent in the investigations of the relationship between architecture and mathematics and the creativity that is common to the pursuit of both. I will present the case on how this may matter to someone who is interested in the history of mathematics. To make this more intelligible, I will partly talk also of my personal journey in investigating this relationship and the issues I have researched and written about, and how these in turn changed my view of the nature of mathematics education.

Part of the series "What do historians of mathematics do?"

I will address this question by turning to another: "What is algebra?" In answering this second question, and surveying the way that the answer changes as we move through the centuries, I will highlight some of the problems that face historians of mathematics when it comes to interpreting historical mathematics, and give a flavour of what it means to study the history of mathematics.

The (Danish-born) German mathematician Olaus Henrici (1840–1918) studied in Karlsruhe, Heidelberg and Berlin before making his career in London, first at University College and then, from 1884, at the newly formed Central Technical College where he established a Laboratory of Mechanics. Although Henrici’s original training was as an engineer, he became known as a promoter of projective geometry and as an advocate for the use of mathematical models. In my talk, I shall discuss the different aspects of Henrici's work and explore connections between them.