Image copyright University of St Andrews

Mathematical Biography:

A MacTutor Celebration

St Andrews University, Scotland

16th - 17th September 2016

News: Videos of presentations now available.

The Conference:

Mathematical Biography is organised by the British Society for the History of Mathematics and the School of Mathematics and Statistics, St Andrews University. Talks will take place between mid afternoon Friday 16th September and mid afternoon Saturday 17th September, with optional activities on the morning of 16th September.

Provisional programme

Niels Henrik Abel by Johan Gørbitz [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons; Ada Lovelace by Alfred Edward Chalon [Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons


The meeting will showcase various approaches to mathematical biography, bringing together mathematicians, historians, readers and writers to discuss their perspectives.

Biography can link mathematicians to their discipline’s past, inspire young people to become mathematicians, and engage the public in appreciation of mathematics. The conference will provide space to discuss the cultural roles of mathematical biography, and the historiographic and technical challenges of writing mathematical biography.

Sofja Wassiljewna Kowalewskaja by Unknown [Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons; Paul Dirac by Nobel Foundation [Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons


Planned sessions include: biography and the cultural significance of individuals; mathematical biography and new technologies; approaches to writing mathematical biography; reflecting on writing biography; politicisation of mathematical biography in the 20th century; writing and using biographies of female mathematicians; and a MacTutor session.

St Andrews is the home of the MacTutor biographical website. One session of the conference will celebrate the achievements of MacTutor and canvas the views of users on how they would like to see it further developed.

Provisional programme

Marie Curie and Poincaré talk at the 1911 Solvay Conference by Benjamin Couprie. [Public Domain]

Invited speakers include:

  • Nicholas Bingham (Imperial College) Obituaries Editor, London Mathematical Society, 2005-15
  • Steven Skiena (Stony Brook University, USA) author of Who's Bigger and leader of PeopleSimilarity
  • Dagmar Mrozik (University of Wuppertal, Germany) the Jesuit Science Network, a biographical database
  • Edmund Robertson (St Andrews University) Originator, author and developer of MacTutor
  • Sydney Padua (independent) award winning graphic biography of Ada Lovelace
  • Henrik Kragh Sørensen (Aarhus University, Denmark) biographical representations of Abel
  • Graham Farmelo (Cambridge) award winning biographer of Paul Dirac
  • Kris Grint (independent) crowdsourcing in the Transcribe Bentham project
  • Eva Kaufholz (Johannes Gutenberg University, Germany) discussion of the varying portrayals of Sofya Kovalevskaya
  • Philip Beeley (Oxford University) mathematical culture in Restoration England; Early Modern Letters Online
  • Richard Simpson (BSHM) travels with MacTutor
Jesuit astronomers with Kangxi Emperor 1690-1705, By Philippe Behagle (Beauvais, 1690-1705) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons