Autumn Meeting and AGM, 2010

Birmingham University (Department of Mathematics, Watson Building),
Saturday 2 October 2010, 11am - 5pm (Coffee from 10:30)

The BSHM Annual General Meeting is at 3pm.

Organisers: Tony Mann (, Richard Simpson, Tony Gardiner


11am Jennifer Rampling (Department of History and Philosophy of Science, Cambridge), 'John Dee and the Elizabethan Mathematics of Everything’ (abstract)
11.50am Patricia Rothman (University College, London), ‘The man who invented the concept of pi: William Jones and his circle’ (abstract)
4pm Peter Neumann (The Queen's College, Oxford), The John Fauvel Lectgure, 'Tout ce gâchis: editing and translating the work of Évariste Galois' (abstract)

2-3pm Members' Talks

Terry Froggatt, "Some examples of software archaeology" (abstract)
Michalis Sialaros (Birkbeck, University of London), "Revisiting Euclid: An investigation of the affinity of the Elements and the Data" (abstract)

Click here for a registration form, which should be sent to Tony Mann, Department of Mathematical Sciences, University of Greenwich, Old Royal Naval College, Park Row, London SE10 9LS to reach him by Thursday 23 September 2010.


Jennifer Rampling (Department of History and Philosophy of Science, Cambridge), John Dee and the Elizabethan mathematics of everything

The foremost mathematician of Elizabethan England was John Dee (1527–1609). A true ‘Renaissance man’, Dee provided technical advice to Elizabeth I and her counsellors, practiced astrology, searched for the philosophers’ stone, and gathered one of the greatest scientific libraries in Europe. The breadth of his erudition is clear from his best known work, the ‘Mathematicall Praeface’ to Henry Billingsley’s Elements of Geometrie (1570): a translation of Euclid, presented in English for the benefit of a non-academic audience. Dee furnished the work with an elaborate classification of the mathematical arts, which in his view extended beyond the applications of astronomy, navigation, and surveying, to encompass such varied disciplines as geography, architecture, music, painting, and magic. I shall use Dee’s Praeface as a starting point for exploring the remarkable and seemingly contradictory range of his interests: on the one hand, providing practical advice for English seafarers, tradesmen, and politicians; on the other, pursuing numerical abstraction as a means of approaching God, and the knowledge of all things.

Patricia Rothman, Honorary Research Fellow, Department of Mathematics, UCL
‘The man who invented the concept of π: William Jones and his circle’

William Jones was important in his lifetime primarily for three things: he was the first person to use the Greek letter π in its modern sense. Additionally, he had acquired such a significant archive of manuscripts that he was appointed to the Royal Society committee, to investigate the invention of calculus. Finally, he was influential as communicator in a network of mathematicians, astronomers and natural philosophers in the early eighteenth century.

This lecture will also touch on the lives of some of the notable characters of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries who contributed to his story.

Michalis Sialaros, Birkbeck, University of London, ‘Revisiting Euclid: An investigation of the affinity of the Elements and the Data’

Euclid has always been famous as the author of the Elements. In fact, he wrote a number of other treatises as well, among which the most famous was the Data. Although both works deal with plane geometry, their structure differs widely. Modern scholars associate the two texts with the idea of the 'tool-box'; namely, that for the proofs in the Data, Euclid used theorems from the first six books of the Elements. My main effort will be further to expand the 'tool-box' by arguing that the propositions in the Data were, in their turn, used to support the proofs of some of the propositions in the Elements. This idea, offers a unified understanding of Euclid's mathematical practice, and a more clear view of him as a mathematician and an author. Moreover, it suggests an answer to the riddle of what the mathematical purpose of the Data might have been; a question that has never been posed in the literature before.

Terry Froggatt, "Some examples of software archaeology"

What is 518.688? This is one of many questions that Terry had to answer in his day job, when digging around in some real-time software. Other questions had him looking into the works of Brigadier Bomford and Colonel Clarke, both of whom wrote books with the same title and same publisher, exactly 100 years apart.

Peter Neumann (The Queen's College, Oxford), 'Tout ce gâchis: editing and translating the work of Évariste Galois'

When he died aged twenty, shot in a mysterious early morning duel, Galois had already written important mathematical work which was to change the course of algebra. Some had already been published; a number of manuscripts were found on his desk. His famous testamentary letter, written on the eve of the duel, ends "... il se trouvera, j'espère, des gens qui trouveront leur profit à déchiffrer tout ce gâchis." I propose to speak as one of those people and say something of "this mess" and my project to produce a new edition, with a translation into English, of the writings in question


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