Zabell, Sandy L. (Author)

Journal Electronique d'Histoire des Probabilités et de la Statistique

Volume: 8

Pages: 1--29

Publication Date: 2012

Edition Details: Part of a special section on Laplace.

Language: English

Edition Details: Part of a special section on Laplace.

Language: English

The voices of reform in the Analytical Society had considerable authority despite the youth and relative lack of standing of its members: Herschel, for example, was the senior wrangler in 1812 (that is, had the highest score on the Mathematical Tripos, the examination to which Hudson was referring), followed by Peacock. The e ects of the resulting curricular reforms were eventually felt: examination of the list of senior wranglers in the initial decades of the century reveals few names of distinction in mathematics,2 but 2Journ@l électronique d'Histoire des Probabilités et de la Statistique/ Electronic Journal for History of Probability and Statistics . Vol.8, Décembre/December 2012 Philosophical Society. Its members, in particular Peacock, played an important role in modernizing mathematics at Cambridge. (This was just part of a more general movement, including the founding of the Astronomical Society of London in 1820, the Society for the Di usion of Useful Knowledge in 1826, and the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1831.) Cambridge up to that time had not been receptive to the ideas of the continental mathematicians. Some idea of this is a orded by a revealing experience of Babbage's: I went to my public tutor Hudson, to ask the explanation of one of my mathematical di culties [concerning something in Lacroix's textbook on calculus]. He listened to my question, said it would not be asked in the Senate House [that is, would not be the subject of examination], and was of no sort of consequence, and advised me to get up the earlier subjects of the university studies. After some little while I went to ask the explanation of another di culty from one of the lecturers. He treated the question just in the same way. I made a third e ort to be enlightened about what was really a doubtful question, and felt satis ed that the person I addressed knew nothing of the matter, although he took some pains to disguise his ignorance. I thus acquired a distaste for the routine of the studies of the place, and devoured the papers of Euler and other mathematicians, scattered through innumerable volumes of the academies of Petersburgh, Berlin, and Paris, which the libraries I had recourse to contained. Under these circumstances it was not surprising that I should perceive and be penetrated with the superior power of the notation of Leibnitz. [Babbage, 1961, p. 23] The voices of reform in the Analytical Society had considerable authority despite the youth and relative lack of standing of its members: Herschel, for example, was the senior wrangler in 1812 (that is, had the highest score on the Mathematical Tripos, the examination to which Hudson was referring), followed by Peacock. The e ects of the resulting curricular reforms were eventually felt: examination of the list of senior wranglers in the initial decades of the century reveals few names of distinction in mathematics, 2 but 2 in later decades this changed, as the ranks of the senior wranglers came to include many distinguished mathematicians and physicists.3 Thus when Augustus de Morgan studied at Cambridge in the 1820s, it was at a time of intellectual ferment, and a missionary fervor for spreading the new math and science to the masses (the function of the Society for the Di usion of Useful Knowledge).

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