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One Lady's Romance with Mathematics

I admit it. I love unusual mathematics books, especially if they are old! And, recently I have discovered, through an odd route, a wealth of old mathematics books on-line...free for your browsing (and possible download).

For example, consider P. Hamson's The Romance of Mathematics: Being the Original Researches of a Lady Professor of Girtham College (1886). The context is that someone has found an old desk bearing the papers (e.g. lectures, diary, correspondence) of a lady professor (name never mentioned) and the "finder" feels that he should share the lady professor's materials with the world.

The parts I found interesting:

  • Paper 1 describes life as a female professor in England in the 1800s
  • Papers III and IV discuss the properties of the conic sections, then applies them to "polemical mathematics" (i.e. the study of social science and political government. This would be great for students to explore as an unexpected application of the conic sections. For example, you might share the author's political interpretation of the point and the circle, and then see if students can interpret the ellipse, the parabola, and the hyperbola
  • The End Paper contains some correspondence that again reflects on life as a female professor in England in the 1800s. For example, if she decides to marry the love of her life, she must give up her college position (and give up her other love of life...mathematics)
At the end, we learn that the "author" P. Hampson, who finds the desk and shares this information, is also the person who marries the lady professor...sorry to ruin the story for you!

Hope you have time to browse this old text...it is a direct contrast to the mathematics texts of today!