Take several mathematical equations, add a few radicals and you get some thinkers whose influence still affects today’s math world, according to Richard Stout, professor of mathematics. As part of the mathematics department’s monthly and public Math Forums on campus, Stout will be discussing some key figures in history, Tuesday, December 3, 2013, in the Ken Olsen Science Center room 127 from 4:45-5:45 p.m. Stout‘s talk will also be the basis of his research next semester while on sabbatical. Here’s how he describes it:
“If you had been a student at Cambridge University in the early nineteenth century (sorry, no women allowed) you would have studied mathematics—lots of mathematics. This was especially true if you wanted to graduate with distinction. However, the mathematics taught at Cambridge around 1810 was still held captive to the methods and memory of their most famous graduate, Isaac Newton. The exciting new results and methods coming from France, Germany, and other places on the continent, were not communicated to Cambridge students, at least not until a group of exceptional students formed a radical organization called the Analytical Society.
“These revolutionaries—Charles Babbage, John Herschel, and George Peacock—were students who went on to reform mathematics at Cambridge and provide leadership for British science over the next fifty years. These people, over the last few years, have become good friends of mine, and so I’ll focus on the academic, mathematical, and even religious climate in which they worked.
“But what of the women? Although she was not part of this Cambridge group, we will also look at the remarkable work of Mary Somerville, a woman of privilege who persevered and overcame great odds to pursue a life of intellectual vigor and influence, providing translations and commentaries for important works such as Laplace’s difficult work, Mécanique Céleste. This is an interesting era in the history of mathematics, with some fascinating people who I hope will become your friends too.”