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Professor June Barrow-Green

Profile summary

Professional biography

I am Professor of History of Mathematics in the School of Mathematics and Statistics having joined the OU as a full-time PhD student in 1989.  I worked in an art gallery in London for several years before studying mathematics as an undergraduate at Kings College London.  I then worked in the City for two years before returning to Kings to study for an MSc in mathematics, after which I went to the OU. I chose the OU for my PhD study because, at the time, it was the only university in the country which offered the opportunity for graduate study in history of mathematics in a mathematics department. 

I am chair of the International Commission on the History of Mathematics, and a member of the Council of the British Society for the History of Mathematics, having served as the Society’s President.  I am also the Archive Curator for the IMU, and a Visiting Professor at the LSE.  I was an elected member of the Council of the London Mathematical Society and served as the Society's Librarian (2007-2018).  

Research interests

My research focuses on the history of 19th-20th century mathematics, particularly in Britain.  Recent studies concern the role of Cambridge mathematicians during WW1, and the use of geometric surface models in research and in teaching.  Current projects include studies on the contribution of George Birkhoff to topological dynamics, and the contribution of Olaus Henrici to the development of harmonic analysers. 

I lead the history of mathematics research group at the OU.  The group currently comprises of a Reseach Associate who is working on the development of aerodynamics during WW1, and two PhD students, one of whom is working on the mathematics of Mary Somerville and the other who is working on the influence of Edmund Taylor Whittaker.

I have a special interest in the history of the gender gap in mathematics, and am working on the representation of women in mathematics as portrayed through a variety of media.  See, for example, my article on Philippa Fawcett, the woman who scored more highly than all the men in the Cambridge Mathematical Tripos of 1890, which was published in the LMS Newsletter (May 2020).

I was a member of the panel on The Gender Gap in Mathematical and Natural Sciences from a Historical Perspective at the 2018 ICM in Rio de Janeiro, after which I was interviewed by Plus Magazine. You can view the interview here.   I have also been interviewed by Womanthology and Pie News

Teaching interests

I am chair of MST124 Essential Mathematics 1, and deputy chair of M840 Dissertation in Mathematics where I am responsible for the M840 option History of Modern Geometry.  

I am a co-author, together with Jeremy Gray and Robin Wilson, of The History of Mathematics a Source-Based Approach, which developed out of the pioneering OU course MA290 Topics in the History of Mathematics.  The first volume was published in 2019 and the second volume is in production.

I am currently developing an open-access diversity resource for mathematics undergraduates and mathematics teachers.


Impact and engagement

I have given talks to a variety of audiences, national and international, from schools to the University of the Third Age, including the Women of the World Festival, the Northern Ireland Science Festival, Gresham College, the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition, and the Institute of Physics.  A selection are listed below. You can view my inaugural lecture “He denies the very existence of a woman mathematician” here

I was a member of the Advisory Panel for the new mathematics gallery in the London Science Museum (Mathematics: The Winton Gallery), which opened in 2016.  I also helped to curate the Sublime Symmetry exhibition at the Guildhall Art Gallery in 2018.

I have been the academic consultant and/or contributor to television programmes such as Magic Numbers: Hannah Fry’s mysterious world of mathematics (BBC4); Calculating Ada. The Countess of Computing (BBC4); The Story of Maths (BBC4); Attack of the Zeppelins (Channel 4); High Anxieties: the Mathematics of Chaos (BBC4); and radio programmes such as A Mathematician’s Guide to Beauty (BBC R4) and In Our Time (BBC R4). 


A selection of recent lectures and events

The Representation of Women in Mathematics (Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro)

The History of the Gender Gap in Mathematics (Association of Egyptian Women in Mathematics; NYU, Abu Dhabi; 2018 ICM, Rio de Janiero).

What are Women’s Competitive Advantages in the Field of Science?  (Public roundtable discussion, NYU, Abu Dhabi)

Mathematicians at War (Central University of Himachal Pradesh; LSE; Institute of Physics)

Pioneering Women in Mathematics (University of the Third Age; St James’s Senior School, London)

The Greatest Inequality in Maths (Northern Ireland Science Festival)

Euler’s Work on Ballistics (Gresham College)

A career in (history of) mathematics (Ampleforth College)

It is easier to square a circle than to get round a mathematician”:  The Wit and Wisdom of Augustus De Morgan (Guildhall Art Gallery; Russell Cotes Art Gallery)

Charlotte Scott and Philippa Fawcett19th Century Women Trailblazers in the Cambridge Mathematical Tripos (Winton Women Trailblazers in Mathematics Conference)

Women Computers in the First World War (Rewley House, Oxford)

Women Computers in WW1 and WW2 (City of London Academy)

William Henry Fox Talbot and Mathematics (The Yorkshire Philosophical Society)

Women Mathematicians in 19th Century Cambridge (The Royal High School, Bath)

‘When did British Mathematics become Cosmopolitan?’  (Panel Discussion, Russian Presence UK and Pushkin House)

Tripos, tennis and tribunals; the diary of a Cambridge student 1915-1916 (Open University Pioneer Alumni Event)

The Mathematical World of William De Morgan (De Morgan Foundation ‘Sublime Symmetry’ Symposium)

The fantastic story of Sofia Kovalevskaya, one of the first great women in maths (Women of the World Festival)

Curious maths: finding the solution (Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition)

A Woman can win the victory, though she may not wear the wreath”: women and mathematics in late 19th century Cambridge (Florence Nightingale Day, Lancaster University)

Research groups

NameTypeParent Unit
Centre for the History of the Mathematical SciencesCentreFaculty of Mathematics, Computing and Technology


Externally funded projects

Booth Legacy - History of Mathematics
RoleStart dateEnd dateFunding source
Lead01 Apr 201931 Mar 2021Philanthropic donations UK

A former student in history of mathematics, Mrs Booth, has left The Open University a legacy of c.£50,000 to be spent on ‘research in history of mathematics’. I believe an appropriate use of the funds would be to employ Tony Royle, who has recently completed his PhD under my supervision, as a part-time (50%) post-doctoral researcher for two years. Tony’s thesis, which relied on a number of previously unexplored archives and which built on earlier work of mine, was a study of mathematicians working on early British aeronautics during the First World War. One chapter of his thesis is a case study of three women mathematicians who contributed to the war effort through their work in aeronautics. He would like to expand this part of his thesis into a comprehensive study of women mathematicians working in aeronautics during the War. Tony’s PhD work has been extremely well-received—he has received many invitations to speak on it, both in the UK and abroad, and it was reported on in The Times (21 August 2017). As a former pilot and with the research he has already undertaken, Tony is uniquely qualified to undertake this important project. Furthermore, it would fit in extremely well with my own work on the history of the gender gap in mathematics—I was invited to speak on the topic at the 2018 International Congress of Mathematics in Rio de Janeiro—and that of another of my PhD students, Brigitte Stenhouse, who is working on the mathematics of the 19th century mathematician and scientist, Mary Somerville. Tony absolutely embodies the spirit of the OU—he also has OU undergraduate and master’s degrees, and was the 2018 recipient of the AOUG Baroness Lee of Ashridge Award—and it would be entirely fitting if the legacy were to enable him to take the next step in his academic career.


“Knowledge gained by experience”: Olaus Henrici—engineer, geometer and maker of mathematical models (2021)
Barrow-Green, June
Historia Mathematica ((Early Access))

Stokes' mathematical education (2020-06-07)
Barrow-Green, June
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 378(2174)

“The first man on the street” - tracing a famous Hilbert quote (1900) back to Gergonne (1825) (2016-11)
Barrow-Green, June and Siegmund-Schultze, Reinhard
Historia Mathematica, 43(4) (pp. 415-426)

“Anti-aircraft guns all day long”: Karl Pearson and computing for the Ministry of Munitions (2015)
Barrow-Green, June
Revue d'Histoire des mathématiques, 21 (pp. 111-150)

An American goes to Europe: three letters from Oswald Veblen to George Birkhoff in 1913/1914 (2011-12)
Barrow-Green, June
The Mathematical Intelligencer, 33(4) (pp. 37-47)

The dramatic episode of Sundman (2010-05)
Barrow-Green, June
Historia Mathematica, 37(2) (pp. 164-203)

Euler as an educator (2010-03)
Barrow-Green, June
BSHM Bulletin, 25(1) (pp. 10-22)

Geometry at Cambridge, 1863-1940 (2006-08)
Barrow-Green, June and Gray, Jeremy
Historia Mathematica, 33(3) (pp. 315-356)

'Much necessary for all sortes of men': 450 years of Euclid's 'Elements' in English (2006-05)
Barrow-Green, June
BSHM Bulletin, 21(1) (pp. 2-25)

The History of Mathematics: A Source-Based Approach (2019)
Barrow-Green, June; Gray, Jeremy and Wilson, Robin
ISBN : 9781470443528 | Publisher : The American Mathematical Society | Published : Providence, USA

"The Demand for Qualified Women": the work of British women mathematicians during the First World War (2020-12)
Barrow-Green, June and Royle, Tony
In: Jones, Claire ed. Handbook of Women and Science ((In press))
Publisher : Palgrave Macmillan

"Stokes of Pembroke S.W. & a very good one" - The mathematical education of George Gabriel Stokes (2019-07-03)
Barrow-Green, June
In: McCartney, Mark; Whittaker, Andrew and Wood, Alastair eds. George Gabriel Stokes: Life, Science and Faith (pp. 47-62)
ISBN : 9780198822868 | Publisher : Oxford University Press

The Historical Context of the Gender Gap in Mathematics (2019)
Barrow-Green, June
In: Araujo, Carolina; Benkart, Georgia; Praeger, Cheryl and Tanbay, Betül eds. World Women in Mathematics 2018 - Proceedings of the First World Meeting for Women in Mathematics (WM)2. Association for Women in Mathematics
ISBN : 9783030211707 | Publisher : Springer (In Press)

'A woman can win the victory, though she may not wear the wreath': women and mathematics in late nineteenth-century Cambridge (2016-11)
Barrow-Green, June
In: Rooney, David ed. Mathematics. How it Shaped Our World (pp. 183-186)
ISBN : 9781785510397 | Publisher : Scala Arts & Heritage Publishers Ltd in association with The Science Museum, London | Published : London

The history of applied mathematics (2015-09-15)
Barrow-Green, June and Siegmund-Schultze, Reinhard
In: Higham, Nicholas ed. The Princeton Companion to Applied Mathematics (pp. 55-79)
ISBN : 978-0691150390 | Publisher : Princeton University Press | Published : Princeton, NJ

Cambridge mathematicians' responses to the first World War (2014-11-30)
Barrow-Green, June
In: Aubin, David and Goldstein, Catherine eds. 'The War of Guns and Mathematics': Mathematical Practices and Communities in France and Its Western Allies around World War I. History of Mathematics (pp. 59-124)
ISBN : 978-1-4704-1469-6 | Publisher : American Mathematical Society | Published : Providence, RI

Merely a speculation of the mind? William Henry Fox Talbot and mathematics (2013-08-02)
Barrow-Green, June
In: Brusius, Mirjam; Dean, Katrina and Ramalingam, Chitra eds. William Henry Fox Talbot: Beyond Photography.. Yale Center for British Art -Studies in British Art (23) (pp. 67-94)
ISBN : 9780300179347 | Publisher : Yale University Press | Published : United States

Wranglers in exile (2011-09)
Barrow-Green, June
In: Flood, Raymond; Rice, Adrian and Wilson, Robin eds. Mathematics in Victorian Britain (pp. 121-174)
ISBN : 9780199601394 | Publisher : Oxford University Press | Published : Oxford

From cascades to calculus: Rolle's Theorem (2009)
Barrow-Green, June
In: Robson, Eleanor and Stedall, Jacqueline eds. The Oxford Handbook of the History of Mathematics. Oxford Handbooks in Mathematics (pp. 737-754)
ISBN : 9780199213122 | Publisher : Oxford University Press | Published : Oxford

Henri Poincare, memoir on the three-body problem (1890) (2005-02)
Barrow-Green, June
In: Grattan-Guinness, I. ed. Landmark Writings in Western Mathematics 1640-1940 (pp. 627-638)
ISBN : 978-0-444-50871-3 | Publisher : Elsevier | Published : Amsterdam

Burnside’s applied mathematics (2004-08-26)
Barrow-Green, June
In: Neumann, Peter M.; Mann, A.J.S. and Tompson, Julia C. eds. The Collected Papers of William Burnside (pp. 63-70)
ISBN : 978-0-19-850585-3 | Publisher : Oxford University Press | Published : Oxford, UK

Gösta Mittag-Leffler and the Foundation and Administration of Acta Mathematica (2002)
Barrow-Green, June E.
In: Hunger Parshall, Karen and Rice, Adrian C. eds. Mathematics unbound: the evolution of an International Mathematical Research Community, 1800-1945. History of Mathematics (23) (pp. 138-164)
ISBN : 9780821821244 | Publisher : American Mathematical Society/London Mathematical Society | Published : Providence, USA

The Princeton Companion to Mathematics (2008)
Gowers, Timothy; Barrow-Green, June and Leader, Imre eds.
ISBN : 9780691118802 | Publisher : Princeton University Press | Published : Princeton

The Gender Gap in Mathematical and Natural Sciences from a Historical Perspective (2019-04)
Barrow-Green, June; Ponce Dawson, Silvina and Roy, Marie-Françoise
In : International Congress of Mathematicians - 2018 (1-9 Aug 2018, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) (pp. 1073-1092)

“An exquisite machine”: Olaus Henrici’s harmonic analyser (2017)
Barrow-Green, June
In : Mathematical Instruments between Material Artifacts and Ideal Machines: Their Scientific and Social Role before 1950 (23-29 Jul 2017, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) (pp. 3506-3510)

“Clebsch took notice of me”: Olaus Henrici and surface models.
Barrow-Green, June
In : History of Mathematics: Models and Visualization in the Mathematical and Physical Sciences (25-31 Oct 2015, Oberwolfach) (pp. 22-25)

Poincaré and the Three Body Problem (1993)
Barrow-Green, June Elizabeth
PhD thesis The Open University

"The Accident of Being the First Woman Senior Wrangler" (2020-05)
Barrow-Green, June
The London Mathematical Society488, London.