Saturday, February 28, 2015

Looking Forward

Well, this is probably the longest I've gone between posts.  In terms of social media I've been distracted by facebook, and in terms of time I've been distracted by planning what it is I'm looking forward to, and that is my sabbatical, which will take place in spring 2016.

I wrote up my proposal in September (2014) and just within the past couple of weeks have gotten final approvals, but throughout all that time I've been planning and dreaming.  And the closer I look the more this morphs.  The focus is mathematical history from The Renaissance to the present in northern Europe.

It's been a long journey already, even though I won't be boarding a plane for more than a year!

At the moment I'm rediscovering Mary Fairfax Somerville (1780-1872), whom I had never known much about before - other than the fact that she was one of the few female mathematicians of her time and had all the struggles of other women desiring education at that time.

Through my researches into travel I have come across a biography of her by her daughter using excerpts of Mary's own writing and correspondence.  It has been fascinating to learn of her own life in her own words.

I had planned only to be in Scotland for a couple of days, only looking into the life of John Napier (especially Merchiston Castle Tower above, which was his home), but I am finding I'll need to spend more time in Scotland - in and around Edinburgh - especially in Jedburgh, where Mary was born, and in Burntisland where she lived.  John Playfair taught at the University in Edinbrugh, and even Girolamo Cardano (of Milan), author of Ars Magna, spent time there in the 1500s when he was summoned by Archbishop Hamilton to treat his health issues (Cardano being one of the best doctors of his day as well a the most prominent mathematician of the time).  And then, of course, there's James Clerk Maxwell  .  .  .  and  .  .  .

Other anticipated highlights include visiting Oxford and Cambridge, Woolsthorpe Manor (Newton's home), Paris (with emphasis on the lives of Sophie Germain and Evariste Galois), Heidelberg University, Gottingen and Halle (home not only of mathematician Georg Cantor but also of George Friedrich Handel).

I'm so excited that I can barely think of anything else!  So whether my posts be many or few over the next year and a half, most will probably include content involving how the planning is coming along and what new things I'm discovering as I look into this - and then, I imagine, a lot of looking back as well!

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