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BSHM Undergraduate Essay Prize 2014/15

The winner of the 2014/15 BSHM undergraduate essay prize is Edwin Reynolds, an Oxford University maths student, whose essay title was:
‘To What Extent Were the Contributions of Cauchy to the Development of Rigour in Analysis Influenced by Those of Lagrange?'

Second Hand Books

BSHM currently holds about 100 second hand mathematical texts of various kinds. These were the property of a number of members, now deceased. These books are essentially ‘free’ but anyone wanting any is asked to cover the costs of postage and packing, if any. They may also wish to make a small contribution to BSHM funds. We would like this exercise to be complete by the end of July – after which the remaining books will have to go for disposal. If you intend to react, please do so sooner rather than later!
List of Books


MATHSWORLDUK exists to excite and engage everyone, especially the young, with the fascination and power of Mathematics.

MATHSWORLDUK aims to establish an exciting, interactive Exploratorium showcasing the patterns, structures, discoveries, applications and people of Mathematics.

RIP Graham Flegg

Your Council announces, with deep regret, the death on 16th March 2015 of Graham Flegg, aged 90, President of BSHM 1980 to 1982.
He joined the OU when it was founded in 1969 and worked there until he retired.
He wrote several books, incuding: "From Geometry to Topology", "Boolean Algebra", "Numbers Through the Ages" and "Numbers: Their History and Meaning".

2015 Thomas Harriot Lecture
The 2015 Thomas Harriot Lecture will take place at 5pm on Thursday 28 May 2015 in the Champneys Room, Oriel College, Oxford.
The lecturer will be Dr Stephen Clucas, Reader in early Modern Intellectual History at Birkbeck College.
This year's lecture lecture will celebrate 25 years of a series inaugurated by Professor David Quinn in 1990. Dr Clucas's title will be:
        "Thomas Harriot in the Twenty-First Century: 25 years of the Harriot Lecture"
The lecture will be followed at 6pm by an informal drinks reception in the Champneys Room.
All welcome
For further information, please contact Professor Robert Fox (

(Note: for BSHM members: Thomas Harriot was, of course, an interest of recently deceased Jacqueline Stedall, and Dr Clucas will no doubt mention her work).

Jackie Stedall talks about Thomas Harriot

The manuscripts of Thomas Harriot (1560–1621)

The Greate Invention of Algebra Thomas Harriot's Treatise on equations by Jacqueline A. Stedall
This is a work of evident love and outstanding scholarship and I am sure it will do a great deal to advance the reputation of Thomas Harriot. It will, I believe, be acclaimed by academic historians and will become a seminal text for future research. (The Mathematical Gazette)
Stedall is an author to watch ... this is a book that should be in any library that tries to have a complete set of historical source material. (MAA Online)

Portuguese Mathematical Society: the Stamp Website

Philamat: Mathematics – a philatelic history

BSHM President's Report for 2014

Robin Wilson gives his President's report for 2014.

RIP Ivor Grattan-Guinness

Your Council announces, with deep regret, the death on 12th December of Ivor Grattan-Guinness, President of BSHM 1986-1989.
The Guardian obituary.

RIP Jackie Stedall

Former BSHM Council member and BSHM Bulletin editor Jacqueline (‘Jackie’) Stedall died on 27 September 2014.
Guardian obituary, written by Peter Neumann.

BSHM/CSHPM Joint Meeting in North America 2015

Washington, DC, USA, 5th-8th August 2015.
Call for Papers from the Canadian Society for History and Philosophy of Mathematics (CSHPM) to be presented at this joint meeting.
Abstracts (250 words or less) should be submitted by the deadline of 15 February 2015 ,
More details in due course.

First Female Fields Medal Winner

An Iranian mathematician, Prof Maryam Mirzakhani, working in the US has become the first ever female winner of the celebrated Fields Medal.
Sarah Hart, Professor of Mathematics at Birkbeck College London, and BSHM Council member, gives her reaction to the BBC.

Theorem of the Day

Robin Whity provides lots of colour, lots of pictures and lots of theorems!
Lots of historical background interwoven with everything else in THEOREM OF THE DAY.

LSBU Maths Study Group

Carrie Rutherford (London South Bank University) organises a weekly informal Maths Study Group for mathematically-minded people from many walks of life, late Wednesday afternoons.
All aspects of mathematics, including historical, are discussed over tea and cake, followed by an expository talk with the aim of increasing everybody's mathematical general knowledge..
The ten year anniversary of this group was recently reached, marked by a talk by Peter Cameron (St Andrews and Queen Mary).
Welcome to the Maths Study Group

Robert Recorde - What's the problem?

One man/woman shows touring primary schools presenting Welsh history with fun and excitement.

"In Character" is a new company based in Cardiff which provides dramatic costumed performances based on characters from Welsh history.

A one hour show based on Robert Recorde is one of the shows that can be booked by a school.

In this humorous show the pupils will assist Robert with visual and interactive mathematical problems using various methods and strategies.
As the problems are solved they will learn more about this fascinating Welshman and his incredible legacy which forms part of our everyday lives.

Each of the shows has been specifically devised to provide a fun-filled hour of learning and entertainment for children at key stage 2, where they are given opportunities to participate.

Each show is available in either Welsh or English. Further details.

Who was Thomas Bayes?
MH370 Malaysia plane: How maths helped find an earlier crash

Statisticians helped locate an Air France plane in 2011 which was missing for two years.
Could mathematical techniques inspired by an 18th Century Presbyterian minister be used to locate the mysterious disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370?
BBC News Story


The British Society for the History of Mathematics (BSHM) has announced the winner of the 2013 Neumann Prize. This prize, named after Oxford mathematician and past BSHM President Dr Peter Neumann, OBE, is awarded every two years for the best mathematics book containing historical material and aimed at a non-specialist readership.

The 2013 winner is Jacqueline Stedall, of Oxford University, for her book The History of Mathematics: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2012). The nominating committee praised the book as ‘stimulating, very well written, and very suitable for the ‘general reader’, also containing many new and perceptive remarks about how to approach the subject'. The award was made at a joint BSHM–Gresham College meeting on 31 October.

Two further books received special mention: Ian Stewart’s 17 Equations that Changed the World (Profile) and Glen Van Brummelen’s Heavenly Mathematics (Princeton).

Earliest Known Uses of Some of the Words and Symbols of Mathematics

Words         Symbols

Timeline of Computable Knowledge 20,000 BC to 2010

WolframAlpha's historical timeline for the delevopment of computable knowledge.

Some highlights:
WolframAlpha Timeline

A Brief History of Mathematics - ten 15-minute BBC radio broadcasts still available from the BBC website.
Professor Marcus du Sautoy argues that mathematics is the driving force behind modern science.
Ten fifteen minute programmes that reveal the personalities behind the calculations from Newton to the present day.
How do these masters of abstraction find a role in the real world?

01. Newton and Leibniz
The battle over the calculus.
How the great hero of British science is rather less gentlemanly than his German rival.
An astronaut and investment analyst pay homage to the enormous power of the calculus.

02. Leonard Euler
The man who calculated as other men breathe.
The mathematical omnivore without whom no history of mathematics is complete.

03. Joseph Fourier
The life and mathematics of this Napoleonic soldier.
With contributions from musician Brian Eno who loves Fourier's analysis and uses it to create sounds that have never been heard before.

04. Evariste Galois
An angry, young genius who did his best maths in prison and died in a duel, aged 20.

05. Carl Friedrich Gauss
The 19th century mathematical celebrity.
How a study of asteroids led Gauss to describe the normal distribution.
With contributions from Chairman for the Commission for Racial Equality Trevor Phillips, who believes statistics are the most powerful weapon we have for fighting prejudice.

06. The Mathematicians who helped Einstein
Seeing in four dimensions.
The pioneers who pushed mathematics into new dimensions and the strange new geometries they created.
Emeritus Professor Roger Penrose confirms that even Einstein sometimes struggled with his maths.

07. Georg Cantor
Seeing in four dimensions.
The troubled life of this radical mathematician who shocked his colleagues by proving there's more than one infinity.
With contributions from Emeritus Professor of Mathematics Roger Penrose.

08. Henri Poincare
An embarassing error and the mathematics of chaos.
How a mistake in Poincare's working led him to an astonishing conclusion: some mathematical problems don't have a reliable solution.

09. Hardy and Ramanujan
A mathematical romance.
How a passion for prime numbers united a Cambridge professor and an unknown Indian clerk.

10. Nicolas Bourbaki
The mathematician that never was.
The life and mathematics of an elusive hero.
The collected works of Bourbaki represents one of the most ambitious enterprises in mathematical history: an attempt to unify shapes and numbers into single discipline.

PODCASTS & DOWNLOADS of all these are available from the BBC website

Unplanned News

Peter Rowlett is the BSHM expert on "the unplanned impact of mathematics" - mathematics impacting beyond the imaginings of the originator!
After an article in Nature in 2011 by BSHM members, Peter is running a series of short follow up articles in Mathematics Today and is looking for contributors.

Here are some of the preprints:
From Entscheidungsproblem to Colossus
Theory of numbers
Green’s mathematical application to electricity, and beyond
Group Theory and Code Breaking
Bayes’ Theorem meets Cyberspace

Find out more! here
Or you can send Peter a message here
Listen to the BBC 2010 broadcast from "In Our Time": Mathematics' Unintended Consequences        
One unplanned impact of compiling this news item was finding a wealth of "In Our Time" broadcasts pertinent to the history of mathematics. More "In Our Time" Selections below  

Student Membership only £5 per year including Bulletin!

how to join

(We welcome new ideas and new news. ).

Everyday News from BSHM Twitter

The BSHM Twitter account is @mathshistory.
Each day it sends the name and biography of a mathematician who was born or died on that day.
Also, occasional news about forthcoming meetings and lectures.
More than 24,000 followers!

History is News!

Two BSHM presidents detail the 40 year history of BSHM

Members Count

A membership news update

On the Meetings Horizon

BSHM/CSHPM Joint Meeting in North America 2015
Washington, DC, USA, 5th-8th August 2015.
More details in due course.

In Our Time - A Selection from the Popular BBC Series

Listen to some of these broadcasts!     BSHM members have participated in many of these!     Read more about Unplanned Impact  

Ada Lovelace         Archimedes         Chaos Theory         Cryptography         Fermat's Last Theorem         Game Theory         Godel's Incompleteness Theorems         History and Understanding the Past         History of History         History's relevance         Imaginary Numbers         Indian Mathematics         Infinity         Inspiration and Genius         The Library of Alexandria         Mathematics         Mathematics and Music         Mathematics' Unintended Consequences         Maths and Storytelling         The Measurement of Time         The Measurement Problem in Physics          Negative Numbers         Pi         The Poincaré Conjecture         Prime Numbers         Probability         Ptolemy and Ancient Astronomy         Pythagoras         Random and Pseudorandom         Relativity         Renaissance Maths         Science in the 20th century         Science's Revelations         Symmetry         The Age of the Universe         The Calculus         The Calendar         The Fibonacci Sequence         The Laws of Motion         The Multiverse         The Music of the Spheres         The Physics of Time         The Royal Society         The Scientific Method         The Scientist         The Second Law of Thermodynamics         The Speed of Light         The Universe's Origins         The Universe's Shape         Theories of Everything         Time        

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The British Society for the History of Mathematics is registered as a company limited by guarantee, no. 3326816, and as a charity, no. 1061229. Its registered office is c/o Andrew Thurburn & Co, 38 Tamworth Road, Croydon, Surrey CR0 1XU, UK.