Being a Professional Mathematician

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Thomas Harriot (1560 - 1621)

Tomas Harriot (maybe)

MP4 file (audio and images) MP3 file (audio only)

Jackie Stedall talks about Thomas Harriot, a notable mathematician who lived in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. She talks about

  • Harriot's mathematics (at time 0:16)
  • Was Harriot a "professional mathematician"? (0:42)
  • Harriot's patrons (0:51)
  • Mathematical career patterns in Harriot's time (1:32)
  • Harriot's interest in navigation (2:22)
  • The problem of stacking cannon balls (3:14)
  • Mathematics without immediate practical applications (4:11)
  • Did Harriot work collaboratively with others? (4:59)
  • Harriot's communications with other mathematicians (5:51)
  • How Harrriot disseminated his work (6:45)
  • Harriot's reputation as a mathematician (7:45)
  • Would Harriot have described himself as a mathematician? (9:50)
  • Were Harriot's patrons interested in his mathematics? (10:48)

The picture above (the original is in Trinity College, Oxford and the reproduction is taken from Wikimedia Commons) is said to be a portrait of Harriot but this is by no means certain. There is no portrait known definitively to represent Harriot.

Jackie Stedall

Jackie Stedall researches and teaches history of mathematics at the University of Oxford. She has written a number of books on Early Modern European mathematics. She is a longstanding member of the British Society for the History of Mathematics and Editor of its Bulletin.

Further reading

Jacqueline Stedall, A Discourse Concerning Algebra: English Algebra to 1685 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003)
Jacqueline Stedall, The Greate Invention of Algebra: Thomas Harriot's Treatise on equations (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003)
Wikipedia: Thomas Harriot

Jackie Stedall's other works include:
Jacqueline Stedall, The History of Mathematics: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012)
Eleanor Robson and Jacqueline Stedall, The Oxford Handbook of the History of Mathematics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011)
Jacqueline Stedall: Mathematics Emerging: A Sourcebook 1540 - 1900 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008)

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This project was supported by the MSOR Network, the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications and the Universities of Greenwich and Birmingham as part of the National HE STEM Programme and was completed in May 2012. 

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