James Joseph Sylvester: Jewish Mathematician in a Victorian World

Front Cover
JHU Press, Mar 29, 2006 - Biography & Autobiography - 461 pages
0 Reviews

Here, in this first biographical study of James Joseph Sylvester, Karen Hunger Parshall makes a signal contribution to the history of mathematics, Victorian history, and the history of science.

A brilliant Cambridge student at first denied a degree because of his faith, Sylvester came twice to America to teach mathematics, ultimately becoming one of Daniel Coit Gilman's faculty recruits at Johns Hopkins in 1876 and winning the coveted Savilian Professorship of Geometry at Oxford in 1883. He held professorships of natural philosophy, worked as an actuary, was called to the bar, and taught mathematics to cadets training for engineering and artillery posts in the British Army. During his long, distinguished career he also edited England's Quarterly Journal of Pure and Applied Mathematics and established the American Journal of Mathematics, the first sustained mathematics research journal in the United States.

Situating Sylvester's life within the political, religious, mathematical, and social currents of nineteenth-century England, Parshall penetrates the myth of this venerated figure, revealing how he lived, the choices he made and why, how the world in which he lived affected him—and how he affected that world. The story of Sylvester's life sheds light on the evolution of mathematical thought. It also examines the ways in which mathematics may be done and what factors may shape a mathematician's ideas. Parshall explores the development of academic professionalization, nineteenth-century mathematical culture, and the emergence of modern algebra as a mathematical discipline. She highlights the human side of what many view as that most arcane and otherworldly of intellectual endeavors, mathematics, which indeed answers to such diverse factors as religion, ego, and depression.

  

What people are saying - Write a review

We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.

Contents

James Joseph Sylvester The Myth the Mathematician the Man
1
Born to the Faith in Which the Founder of Christianity Was Educated
9
The Josephs of Liverpool
11
The Abraham Joseph Family of London
16
The Royal Institution School Liverpool
22
A Price of Dissent
26
Cambridge Debates Dissent
27
Within the Walls of St Johns
29
HardWon Victories
176
The Uneasy Years
192
Victorian England and Educational Reform
193
Reform and the Royal Military Academy Woolwich
196
Taking on Huxley
201
The BAAS and Science Education
206
Poetry Soothes the Soul
211
Life after Woolwich
215

A TwoYear Hiatus
36
Back at St Johns
38
The 1837 Tripos
43
The Hollow Walls of Academe
49
An Unexpected Opportunity
51
Professor of Natural Philosophy at University College London
55
Looking beyond England
64
Professor of Mathematics at the University of Virginia
69
Struggling against an Adverse Tide of Affairs
76
Actuary by Day Mathematician by Night
81
An Emergent Professional Man
83
J J Sylvester Esq MA FRS Actuary and Secretary
85
The Institute of Actuaries
92
Mathematician or Actuary?
94
Establishing a Mathematical Routine
101
Into the InvariantTheoretic Unknown
107
Crafting the New Algebra
112
The Problem of Syzygies
122
From Actuary to Academic?
130
A New Beginning
137
Changing Responsibilities
138
The Royal Military Academy Woolwich
144
Professor of Mathematics Once More
147
A Roving Mathematical Eye
156
At War with the Military
161
Temporary Truce
165
Second Battle
171
New Possibilities on the Horizon?
219
Exploring Familiar Ground on Unfamiliar Territory
225
First Impressions
226
Getting Started
229
Thriving in the Graduate Classroom
235
Launching the American Journal of Mathematics
239
Sustaining the American Journal of Mathematics
243
Tackling New Challenges in a Home Away from Home
249
From Invariant Theory to the Theory of Numbers
254
From Number Theory to Universal Algebra
262
A Troubled Transition to the Theory of Partitions
267
Henry Smith Is Dead
273
A Bittersweet Victory
278
An Oxford in Transition
279
Between Two Worlds
285
A Rocky Year
293
Hopkins in Oxfordshire?
296
The Final Transition
304
Increasing Signs of Age
305
An International Competition
313
A Steady Decline
317
The Final Years
326
James Joseph Sylvester The Man and His Legacies
329
Notes
339
References
419
Index
447
Copyright

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2006)

Karen Hunger Parshall is a professor of history and mathematics at the University of Virginia.

Bibliographic information