History of Mathematics

History of Mathematics is a multidisciplinary subject with a strong presence in Oxford, spread across a number of departments, most notably the Mathematical Institute and the History Faculty.  The research interests of the members of the group cover mathematics, its cultures and its impacts on culture from the Renaissance right up to the twentieth century.

Core research topics include the development of abstract algebra during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (Christopher Hollings), and the effects of twentieth-century politics on the pursuit of mathematics (Hollings).  Other interests are the historiography of ancient mathematics (Hollings), and the mathematics of Ada Lovelace (Ursula Martin, Hollings).  Away from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, much of the historical mathematical research in the History Faculty focuses on the place of mathematics in the transformation of intellectual culture during the early modern period (Philip Beeley, Benjamin Wardhaugh): the group has a strong background in the mathematics of seventeenth-century Europe, with studies of, for example, the correspondence of the seventeenth-century Savilian Professor of Geometry John Wallis and of the mathematical intelligencer John Collins (Beeley). The recent 'Reading Euclid' project sought to understand the place of Euclid's Elements within early modern British culture and education (Beeley, Wardhaugh).

A current doctoral student within the group is Petra Stanković, who is working on Soviet involvement in the International Congresses of Mathematicians and the International Mathematical Union.

Others in Oxford with interests in the history of mathematics include Howard Emmens (history of group theory), Raymond Flood (Irish mathematics), Keith Hannabuss (nineteenth-century mathematics), Daniel Isaacson (the rise of modern logic, 1879–1931), Rob Iliffe (Newton and Newtonianism), Stephen Johnston (early modern practical mathematics and instruments), Matthew Landrus (Renaissance mathematics and the arts), and Robin Wilson (nineteenth-century mathematics, and the history of combinatorics).

The links below lead to some case studies of research carried out by members of the group:


The group holds a semiregular departmental seminar.  These take place as part of Oxford’s wide range of activities in the history of science, technology and medicine more generally, for which the Oxford Centre for the History of Science, Medicine and Technology provides a focus.

Undergraduate study

Within the Mathematical Institute, the group offers the following undergraduate teaching:

Postgraduate study

The group welcomes applications for postgraduate study, which would be based either in the Mathematical Institute or the History Faculty, depending on the interests and background of the applicant.  Avenues for study include the MSc or MPhil in History of Science, Medicine and Technology, or a DPhil in the History of Mathematics.  Prospective applicants are encouraged to contact either Dr Christopher Hollings (Mathematical Institute) or Dr Benjamin Wardhaugh (History Faculty) to discuss options.

See also

British Society for the History of Mathematics

Oxford Centre for the History of Medicine Science and Technology

Diversifying STEM Curriculum in MPLS

History For Diversity in Mathematics Network

Please contact us with feedback and comments about this page. Last updated on 18 Jan 2024 10:24.