Carl Benjamin Boyer

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Carl Benjamin Boyer
Carl Benjamin Boyer.png
Born(1906-11-03)November 3, 1906
DiedApril 26, 1976(1976-04-26) (aged 69)
NationalityUnited States
OccupationHistorian of mathematics

Carl Benjamin Boyer (November 3, 1906 – April 26, 1976) was an American historian of sciences, and especially mathematics. Novelist David Foster Wallace called him the "Gibbon of math history". [2] It has been written that he was one of few historians of mathematics of his time to "keep open links with contemporary history of science." [3]

David Foster Wallace American fiction writer and essayist

David Foster Wallace was an American writer and university professor in the disciplines of English and creative writing. His novel Infinite Jest (1996) was listed by Time magazine as one of the 100 best English-language novels published between 1923 and 2005. His last novel, The Pale King (2011), was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2012.

Edward Gibbon English historian and Member of Parliament

Edward Gibbon FRS was an English historian, writer and Member of Parliament. His most important work, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, was published in six volumes between 1776 and 1788 and is known for the quality and irony of its prose, its use of primary sources, and its polemical criticism of organised religion.

Mathematics Field of study concerning quantity, patterns and change

Mathematics includes the study of such topics as quantity, structure, space, and change. It has no generally accepted definition.


Life and career

Boyer was valedictorian of his high school class. He received a B.A. from Columbia College in 1928 and an M.A. in 1929. He received his Ph.D. in Mathematics from Columbia University in 1939. [1] He was a full professor of Mathematics at the City University of New York's Brooklyn College from 1952 until his death, although he had begun tutoring and teaching at Brooklyn College in 1928. [1]

Valedictorian is an academic title of success used in the United States, Canada, Philippines, and Armenia for the student who delivers the closing or farewell statement at a graduation ceremony. The chosen valedictorian is traditionally the student with the highest ranking among their graduating class. The term is an Anglicised derivation of the Latin vale dicere, historically rooted in the valedictorian's traditional role as the final speaker at the graduation ceremony before the students receive their diplomas. The valedictory address generally is considered a final farewell to classmates, before they disperse to pursue their individual paths after graduating.

A Bachelor of Arts is a bachelor's degree awarded for an undergraduate course or program in either the liberal arts, sciences, or both. Bachelor of Arts programs generally take three to four years depending on the country, institution, and specific specializations, majors, or minors. The word baccalaureus should not be confused with baccalaureatus, which refers to the one- to two-year postgraduate Bachelor of Arts with Honors degree in some countries.

A Master of Arts is a person who was admitted to a type of master's degree awarded by universities in many countries, and the degree is also named Master of Arts in colloquial speech. The degree is usually contrasted with the Master of Science. Those admitted to the degree typically study linguistics, history, communication studies, diplomacy, public administration, political science, or other subjects within the scope of the humanities and social sciences; however, different universities have different conventions and may also offer the degree for fields typically considered within the natural sciences and mathematics. The degree can be conferred in respect of completing courses and passing examinations, research, or a combination of the two.

Along with Carolyn Eisele of CUNY's Hunter College; C. Doris Hellman of the Pratt Institute, and later CUNY's Queens College; and Lynn Thorndike of Columbia University, Boyer was instrumental in the 1953 founding of the Metropolitan New York Section of the History of Science Society. [4]

Carolyn Eisele American mathematician and historian (1902-2000)

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Hunter College One of the constituent colleges of the City University of New York, an American public university

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In 1954, Boyer was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship to further his work in the history of science. In particular, the grant made reference to "the history of the theory of the rainbow". [5]

Guggenheim Fellowships are grants that have been awarded annually since 1925 by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation to those "who have demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts." The roll of Fellows includes numerous Nobel Laureates, Pulitzer, and other prize winners.

Boyer wrote the books The History of the Calculus and Its Conceptual Development (1959), [6] originally published as The Concepts of the Calculus (1939), [7] History of Analytic Geometry (1956), [8] The Rainbow: From Myth to Mathematics (1959), [9] and A History of Mathematics (1968). [10] He served as book-review editor of Scripta Mathematica . [11]

Scripta Mathematica was a quarterly journal published by Yeshiva University devoted to the philosophy, history, and expository treatment of mathematics. It was said to be, at its time, "the only mathematical magazine in the world edited by specialists for laymen."

Boyer died of a heart attack in New York City in 1976.

Myocardial infarction Interruption of blood supply to a part of the heart

Myocardial infarction (MI), also known as a heart attack, occurs when blood flow decreases or stops to a part of the heart, causing damage to the heart muscle. The most common symptom is chest pain or discomfort which may travel into the shoulder, arm, back, neck, or jaw. Often it occurs in the center or left side of the chest and lasts for more than a few minutes. The discomfort may occasionally feel like heartburn. Other symptoms may include shortness of breath, nausea, feeling faint, a cold sweat, or feeling tired. About 30% of people have atypical symptoms. Women more often present without chest pain and instead have neck pain, arm pain, or feel tired. Among those over 75 years old, about 5% have had an MI with little or no history of symptoms. An MI may cause heart failure, an irregular heartbeat, cardiogenic shock, or cardiac arrest.

In 1978, Boyer's widow, the former Marjorie Duncan Nice, a professor of history, [12] established the Carl B. Boyer Memorial Prize, to be awarded annually to a Columbia University undergraduate for the best essay on a scientific or mathematical topic. [13]

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  1. 1 2 3 Dauben, Joseph Warren and Scriba, Christoph J. (2002) Writing the history of mathematics: its historical development, Birkhäuser. Cf. pp.380-381 for the biography of Boyer.
  2. Wallace, David Foster. "An excerpt from Everything and More" . Retrieved 2007-08-28.
  3. Gray, Jeremy (2016) "Histories of Modern Mathematics in English in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s" in Remmert, Volker R.; Schneider, Martina; and Kragh Sørensen, Henrik (eds.) Historiography of Mathematics in the 19th and 20th Centuries Birkhäuser. p.161. ISBN   9783319396491
  4. Gleason, Mary Louise (1999) "The Metropolitan New York Section of the History of Science Society", Isis, Vol. 90, Supplement: Catching up with the Vision: Essays on the Occasion of the 75th Anniversary of the Founding of the History of Science Society, pp. S200-S218. University of Chicago Press on behalf of The History of Science Society
  5. Staff (May 3, 1954) "Guggenheim Fund Grants $1,000,000" The New York Times
  6. OCLC=916224186
  7. Library of Congress Online Catalog, BIBLD=8312338
  8. Library of Congress Online Catalog, BIBLD=7462342
  9. Library of Congress Online Catalog, BIBLD=3111320
  10. Library of Congress Online Catalog, BIBLD=3121041
  11. Scripta Mathematica . Retrieved 2007-10-21.
  12. Unknown (March 21, 2010) "Marjorie Boyer" (paid obituary), The New York Times
  13. "Columbia College Bulletin:Prizes and Fellowships" . Retrieved 2009-02-20.

Further reading