Ellen Abrams

Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Science and Technology Studies, Cornell University

2019 to 2020
Research Fellow

Making Mathematics American: Representation, Labor, and Engagement during the Growth of American Mathematics, 1894-1945

In 1932, Columbia mathematician Cassius Jackson Keyser helped found the Scripta Mathematica, which was considered “the only mathematical magazine in the world edited by specialists for laymen” (Science vol. 85). By the time the Scripta was in print, the American mathematics community had grown significantly since its nascency in the late nineteenth century. Yet many American mathematicians still perceived a gap between their commitments and practices as mathematicians and the perceptions and priorities of their fellow Americans. By exploring mathematicians like Keyser and publications like the Scripta, my goal in this project is to examine the early-twentieth-century relationship between mathematics and American society. I pay particular attention to mathematical representations, labor, and engagement to show that building an American mathematics community also involved creating an image for the professional mathematician, defining the boundaries of professional mathematics, and continually redefining the meaning and value of mathematical inquiry.