The History of Mathematics Research Cluster

History of Mathematics is a multidisciplinary subject with a strong presence in Oxford, spread across a number of departments, most notably the Mathematical Institute and the History Faculty.  The research interests of the members of the group cover mathematics, its cultures and its impacts on culture from the Renaissance right up to the twentieth century.

Core research topics include the development of abstract algebra during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (Christopher Hollings), and the effects of twentieth-century politics on the pursuit of mathematics (Hollings).  Other interests are the historiography of ancient mathematics (Hollings), and the mathematics of Ada Lovelace (Ursula Martin, Hollings).  Away from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, much of the historical mathematical research in the History Faculty focuses on the place of mathematics in the transformation of intellectual culture during the early modern period (Philip Beeley, Benjamin Wardhaugh): the group has a strong background in the mathematics of seventeenth-century Europe, with studies of, for example, the correspondence of the seventeenth-century Savilian Professor of Geometry John Wallis and of the mathematical intelligencer John Collins (Beeley). The recent 'Reading Euclid' project sought to understand the place of Euclid's Elements within early modern British culture and education (Beeley, Wardhaugh).

Others in Oxford with interests in the history of mathematics include Howard Emmens (history of group theory), Raymond Flood (Irish mathematics), Keith Hannabuss (nineteenth-century mathematics), Daniel Isaacson (the rise of modern logic, 1879–1931), Rob Iliffe (Newton and Newtonianism), Stephen Johnston (early modern practical mathematics and instruments), Matthew Landrus (Renaissance mathematics and the arts), Alessandra Petrocchi (Sanskrit, Latin, and Renaissance mathematics), and Robin Wilson (nineteenth-century mathematics, and the history of combinatorics).

Some case studies of research carried out by members of the group may be found herehere, and here.


The group holds a semi-regular departmental seminar, These take place as part of Oxford’s wide range of activities in the history of science, technology and medicine more generally, for which the Oxford Centre for the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology provides a focus.