Mathematics in Victorian Britain

Mathematics in Victorian Britain

Edited by Raymond Flood , Edited by Adrian Rice , Edited by Robin Wilson , Foreword by Adam Hart-Davis

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During the Victorian era, industrial and economic growth led to a phenomenal rise in productivity and invention. That spirit of creativity and ingenuity was reflected in the massive expansion in scope and complexity of many scientific disciplines during this time, with subjects evolving rapidly and the creation of many new disciplines. The subject of mathematics was no exception and many of the advances made by mathematicians during the Victorian period are still familiar today; matrices, vectors, Boolean algebra, histograms, and standard deviation were just some of the innovations pioneered by these mathematicians. This book constitutes perhaps the first general survey of the mathematics of the Victorian period. It assembles in a single source research on the history of Victorian mathematics that would otherwise be out of the reach of the general reader. It charts the growth and institutional development of mathematics as a profession through the course of the 19th century in England, Scotland, Ireland, and across the British Empire. It then focuses on developments in specific mathematical areas, with chapters ranging from developments in pure mathematical topics (such as geometry, algebra, and logic) to Victorian work in the applied side of the subject (including statistics, calculating machines, and astronomy). Along the way, we encounter a host of mathematical scholars, some very well known (such as Charles Babbage, James Clerk Maxwell, Florence Nightingale, and Lewis Carroll), others largely forgotten, but who all contributed to the development of Victorian mathematics.

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  • Hardback | 480 pages
  • 192 x 248 x 40mm | 1,102.22g
  • 01 Oct 2011
  • Oxford University Press
  • Oxford
  • English
  • 0199601399
  • 9780199601394
  • 810,438

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Author Information

Robin Wilson is Emeritus Professor of Pure Mathematics at the Open University, formerly Professor of Geometry at Gresham College, London, a former fellow of Keble College, Oxford, and president-elect of the British Society for the History of Mathematics. He is involved with the popularization and communication of mathematics and its history, and in 2005 was awarded a Polya prize by the Mathematical Association of America for outstanding expository writing. He was formerly Editor-in-Chief of the European Mathematical Society's Newsletter and Chair of the Committee on Raising Public Awareness of Mathematics.

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Review quote

Mathematics in Victorian Britain is one of the most enjoyable books that I have had the pleasure of reading. In both senses of the word, it is most certainly unputdownable. Graham Wheeler, Significance For anyone with the slightest interest in the history of mathematics, this is an excellent volume for dipping into. Fortean Times The book is clearly written and edited ... A must for anyone interested in this period. Wallace A. Ferguson, Mathematics Today 414 fascinating pages which keep the reader enthralled like a story, although each chapter could be read on its own ... Would I have bought this book in a shop? YES, absolutely. N. G. Macleod, Maths in School As a rule of thumb, if one reads a book and is unable to put it down, then it is a good book. In the case of Mathematics in Victorian Britain, I had to put this book down on several occasions; not because I disliked it, but because it inspired me to pick up a notepad and pencil and try several mathematics questions from nineteenth-century exam papers. The fact that I wanted to explore the book in this way, pick it up and carry on reading, is a real testament to how wonderfully good it really is. Graham Wheeler, Significance The period is a fascinating one and the quality and accessibility of the chapters make for an enjoyable and informative read. And through the fine editing of three more historians, Flood, Rice and Wilson, the book succeeds in eliciting the achievements of British mathematics during those Victorian decades when Britain was in its pomp. Scottish Mathematical Council Journal The book can serve various groups of readers: historians of mathematics as well as mathematicians and even general readers. It is published in a very nice and elegant manner with many pictures and diagrams included. Roman Murawski, Zentralblatt MATH Anyone with an interest in history of mathematics, especially British mathematics, will find this text a pleasurable read ... this book should find a place in the personal library of many historians and mathematicians. Bruce J. Petrie, Canadian Society for History and Philosophy of Mathematics

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