Past History of Mathematics

13 June 2018
16:00
Abstract

The Czech lands were the most industrial part of the Austrian-Hungarian monarchy, broken up at the end of the WW1. As such, Czechoslovakia inherited developed industry supported by developed system of tertiary education, and Czech and German universities and technical universities, where the first chairs for applied mathematics were set up. The close cooperation with the Skoda company led to the establishment of joint research institutes in applied mathematics and spectroscopy in 1929 (1934 resp.).

The development of industry was followed by a gradual introduction of social insurance, which should have helped to settle social contracts, fight with pauperism and prevent strikes. Social insurance institutions set up mathematical departments responsible for mathematical and statistical modelling of the financial system in order to ensure its sustainability. During the 1920s and 1930s Czechoslovakia brought its system of social insurance up to date. This is connected with Emil Schoenbaum, internationally renowned expert on insurance (actuarial) mathematics, Professor of the Charles University and one of the directors of the General Institute of Pensions in Prague.

After the Nazi occupation in 1939, Czech industry was transformed to serve armament of the Wehrmacht and the social system helped the Nazis to introduce the carrot and stick policy to keep weapons production running up to early 1945. There was also strong personal discontinuity, as the Jews and political opponents either fled to exile or were brutally persecuted.

  • History of Mathematics
15 May 2018
16:00
Yelda Nasifoglu
Abstract

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

Both as a canonical mathematical text and as a representative of ancient thought, Euclid's Elements of Geometry has been a subject of study since its creation c. 300 BCE. It has been read as a practical and a theoretical text; it has been studied for its philosophical ramifications and for its perceived potential to inculcate logical thought. For the historian, it is where the history of mathematics meets the history of ideas; where the history of the book meets the history of practice. The study of the Elements enjoyed a particular resurgence during the Early Modern period, when around 200 editions of the text appeared between 1482 and 1700.  Depending on their theoretical and practical functions, they ranged between elaborate folios and pocket-size compendia, and were widely studied by scholars, natural philosophers, mathematical practitioners, and schoolchildren alike.

In this talk, I will present some of the preliminary results of the research we have been conducting for the AHRC-funded project based at the History Faculty 'Reading Euclid: Euclid's Elements of Geometry in Early Modern Britain', paying particular attention to how the books were printed, collected, and annotated. I will concentrate on our methodologies and introduce the database we have been building of all the early modern copies of the text in the British Isles, as well as the 'catalogue of book catalogues'.

  • History of Mathematics
8 May 2018
16:00
Brigitte Stenhouse
Abstract

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

In 1873 the Personal Recollections from Early Life to Old Age of Mary Somerville were published, containing detailed descriptions of her life as a 19th century philosopher, mathematician and advocate of women's rights. In an early draft of this work, Somerville reiterated the widely held view that a fundamental difference between men and women was the latter's lack of originality, or 'genius'.

In my talk I will examine how Somerville's view was influenced by the historic treatment of women, both within scientific research, scientific institutions and wider society. By building on my doctoral research I will also suggest an alternative viewpoint in which her work in the differential calculus can be seen as original, with a focus on her 1834 treatise On the Theory of Differences.

  • History of Mathematics
1 May 2018
16:00
Abstract

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

In this talk, we will survey the movement of mathematical ideas in the 17th century. We will explore, in particular, the mathematical cultures of Paris, Amsterdam, Rome, Cape Town, Goa, Kyoto, Beijing, and London, as well as the journey of mathematical knowledge on a global scale. As it will be an ambitious task to complete a round-the-world history tour in an hour, the focus will be on East Asia. By employing the digital humanities technique, this presentation will use digital media to effectively show historical sources and help the audience imagine the world as a “round” entity when we discuss a global history of mathematics.

  • History of Mathematics
2 March 2018
15:00
Isobel Falconer
Abstract

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. 

  • History of Mathematics
25 January 2018
17:00
Mark McCartney
Abstract

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.

  • History of Mathematics
14 November 2017
16:00
Tony Royle
Abstract

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.

  • History of Mathematics
16 June 2017
14:00
Abstract

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.

  • History of Mathematics
22 May 2017
17:00
Philip Beeley
Abstract

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?

  • History of Mathematics
15 May 2017
17:00
Snezana Lawrence
Abstract

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. 

  • History of Mathematics

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