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.
Euler’s equation, the ‘most beautiful equation in mathematics’, startlingly connects the five most important constants in the subject: 1, 0, π, e and i. Central to both mathematics and physics, it has also featured in a criminal court case and on a postage stamp, and has appeared twice in The Simpsons. So what is this equation – and why is it pioneering?
Robin Wilson is an Emeritus Professor of Pure Mathematics at the Open University, Emeritus Professor of Geometry at Gresham College, London, and a former Fellow of Keble College, Oxford.
28 February 2018, 5pm-6pm, Mathematical Institute, Oxford
Please email @email to register
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.
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.