When Professor June Barrow-Green delivers her OU inaugural lecture on Tuesday 22 May, she will call it: “He denies the very existence of a woman mathematician”.
The quote is from the famous novelist, George Eliot, when she introduced the Russian mathematician Sofia Kovalevskaya to the evolutionary philosopher Herbert Spencer in 1869. Taking this as her cue, Professor June Barrow Green will look at the centuries-long struggle for women mathematicians to gain equality and explore the extent to which progress has been made.
June Barrow-Green is Professor of History of Mathematics in The Open University’s Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. She began studying when she did foundation courses in arts and in mathematics at The Open University. She went on to King’s College, London to do degrees in mathematics before returning to The Open University full time to do her PhD.
“I came from a family which was rather Victorian and didn’t believe in educating girls,” she said. “The Open University opened the door to an education I thought I could never have. It turned up trumps again when I decided to do a PhD in history of mathematics but wanted to be based in a mathematics department - it was the only university in the country which advertised exactly that course of study.”
In “He denies the very existence of a woman mathematician”, Professor Barrow-Green will follow the story of women in mathematics from Hypatia, who was murdered by a religious mob in 415 CE, to Maryam Mirzakhani, who, in 2014, was the first woman to win a Fields medal, the mathematics equivalent to a Nobel Prize.
“These are all women who did mathematics against the odds,” she said. “And one of the reasons I am interested in them is because of the resonance with my own story.
"But I am not only interested in women and mathematics historically, I am interested in the present and future too. Although it is now recognized that there is no difference in the ability of men and women to do mathematics, that recognition was slow in coming and hard fought, and there is still work to do. In Britain today, less than 10% of mathematics professors are women. That needs to change.”
|18:00 - 18:45||Lecture: "He denies the very existence of a woman mathematician"|
|18:45 - 19:00||Panel discussion|
|19:00 - 19:45||Drinks and canapes|
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