Back to list of mathematician case studies
# James Joseph Sylvester (1814 - 1897)
## "An outsider breaking into the established societal norms"
Karen Parshall talks about the nineteenth-century mathematician James Joseph Sylvester. We learn about:
- Sylvester's family background and Jewish heritage (at time 0:27)
- being a Jew in Victorian Britain (1:21)
- his mathematical education (1:57)
- further impact of his Jewishness (2:37)
- a Jew at Cambridge (3:13)
- his first publications (4:24)
- progressing his career, and facing obstacles (5:25)
- end of his first stay in the USA (6:51)
- back in London: a job as actuary, and research progress (7:21)
- "creating his own mathematical community" (8:41)
- his friendship with Cayley (8:58)
- Invariant Theory (9:41)
- taking a degree in law (10:19)
- back to Academia as Professor of Mathematics at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich (10:41)
- defining the "professional mathematician" (11:11)
- Sylvester at Woolwich (11:42)
- enforced retirement, establishing an international reputation (12:30)
- flourishing back in America as a research professor (13:37)
- return to England and the Savilian Chair at Oxford (15:46)
Karen Parshall is Professor of History and Mathematics at the University of Virginia. She has served as an elected member of the Council of the History of Science Society as well as of the American Mathematical Society and as both the Editor of *Historia Mathematica* and the Chair of the International Commission on the History of Mathematics. The author of six books and some fifty scholarly articles, her special field is the history of nineteenth- and twentieth-century mathematics.
The photograph of Sylvester is taken from Wikimedia Commons. It is out of copyright.
**Further Reading**
- Karen Hunger Parshall,
*James Joseph Sylvester: Jewish Mathematician in a Victorian World* (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006)
- Karen Hunger Parshall,
*James Joseph Sylvester: Life and Work in Letters* (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998)
- Karen Hunger Parshall and David E. Rowe,
*The Emergence of the American Mathematical Research Community (1876-1900): J. J. Sylvester, Felix Klein, and E. H. Moore*, AMS/LMS Series in the History of Mathematics, vol. 8 (Providence: American Mathematical Society and London: London Mathematical Society, 1994; paperback edition, 1997)
- Jeremy J. Gray and Karen Hunger Parshall, editors,
*Episodes in the History of Modern Algebra*, AMS/LMS Series in the History of Mathematics, vol. 32 (Providence: American Mathematical Society and London: London Mathematical Society, 2007)
- Wikipedia, James Joseph Sylvester
Back to list of mathematician case studies |