Counting Australia in : mathematics in Australia to the 1960s

Publication Type:
Thesis
Issue Date:
2006
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NO FULL TEXT AVAILABLE. Access is restricted indefinitely. ----- This thesis and a book, Counting Australia In: The People. Organisations and Institutions of Australian Mathematics (Halstead Press, Sydney, 2006), about twice the size of the thesis, are the culmination of the Australian Mathematical Society History Project, which was established to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Society's founding. Other aspects of the project have been the taping of interviews with foundation members of the Society and other prominent mathematicians, and the gathering of photographs and other images relevant to the history. Twenty-four interviews were conducted by the author and all have been fully logged; more than 200 images were collected, of which more than 80 are included in the book. The book is an account in ten chapters and three appendices of mathematics in Australia to the present day. The thesis includes almost all of its first five chapters, a shortened version of the sixth chapter and sections from the seventh and eighth chapters taken into the current Chapters 3 and 4. Nothing of this scope has been undertaken previously. Earlier publications have in general been restricted to obituaries of notable mathematicians and accounts of the early history of mathematics departments at universities in Sydney, Adelaide and Canberra. Unpublished notes in various forms exist for the departments in five or so other universities. Research for this thesis, sponsored by the Australian Mathematical Society, has taken the author to all states in the country and has incorporated visits to many university libraries and archives and State Libraries. Besides university mathematics departments, the coverage includes relevant aspects of the country's Royal Societies, AAAS and ANZAAS, CSIRO and its forerunners, the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Australian Academy of Science. In particular, archival research has uncovered the following: • The unhappy final year of Maurice Birkbeck Pell, first professor of mathematics in Sydney (page 32). • The mathematical work of the surveyor Martin Gardiner in the 1850s to 1870s (page 68). • The application of T.G. Room for the chair of mathematics in Perth in 1928, six years before he gained the chair in Sydney (page 97). • The circumstances concerning the appointment of Thomas Cherry as professor of mathematics in Melbourne ahead of the highly-regarded Norbert Wiener (page 119). • The complete background to the antipathy between T. G. Room and Keith Bullen at the University of Sydney (page 173).
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