J. W. Samuel B.A

From the papers of L.R. Reeve* this record of a remarkable educationalist, mathematician and speaker. He is unknown to  Wikipedia and online research reveals very little.  He contributed some photographs to the Country in Town  exhibition (July 2 to July 16, 1908) at  Whitechapel Art Gallery to illustrate 'Day Educational Rambles' in the education section. He appears to have received a double honours degree at London University in Anglo- Saxon and Early English (1901?.) As with many of Reeve's subjects he was a remarkable speaker...


It was during a conference at the Memorial Hall, Farringdon Street, London, that I first saw J. W. Samuel. He was delivering an address, and I recall vividly the profound impression he made upon me, for I was listening to a man who was one of the most effective speakers in London. He had every attribute required for the highest standard of oratory, and his first essential gift was a perfect delivery. His cultured accent, smoothly expressed, would certainly be my aim if I were to enter a competition in debate, and for some mysterious reason which I could not quite explain, his voice always made me think of Earl Balfour, one of England's greatest statesmen.
  Additionally he was a remarkably handsome man, tallish, with a magnificent head of white wavy hair. He had a truly extensive vocabulary, which made him a most persuasive speaker who could, in a debate, demolish most of an opponent's points and, when he occasionally felt that way, would add a little sarcasm to complete his triumph.
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James Joseph Sylvester—the mathematical genius snubbed by Cambridge

The rule among the dons of Oxford and Cambridge up to the end of the nineteenth century was that you were permitted to take a degree at these  'august' institutions as long as you weren’t a dissenter or a Jew. At around about the same time, when the first colleges for women were established, similar restrictions were applied to women, who were only granted degrees at Oxford in 1920, and shamefully, at Cambridge in 1948. At the latter University, woman  were palmed off with 'certificates' up to that date.

Today, when we are so aware of discrimination against minorities, mathematicians who admire the astonishing achievements of the Jewish-born James Joseph Sylvester (1814- 97) invariably pick up on the fact that despite being ranked second wrangler in the 1837 Cambridge University Tripos, Sylvester, as someone who as a Jew had refused to take the Thirty Nine Articles of the Church of England, was barred from graduating. Nor was he permitted to compete for a fellowship or obtain a Smith’s prize. A year later, and still without a degree,  Sylvester was appointed Professor of Natural Philosophy at the University of London, where he had been a student for a short time from the age of 14. It was only in 1841, when Trinity College, Dublin awarded him the degrees he needed that Sylvester was officially qualified to teach students.

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Mersenne’s Numbers (R.T. Gould / Fermat)

Found - a fascinating forgotten work Oddities: A Book of Unexplained Facts (Allan, London 1928) by R.T. Gould. Rupert Thomas Gould (1890 – 1948), was a lieutenant Commander in the British Royal Navy noted for his contributions to horology. While in the navy in WW1 he suffered a nervous breakdown. During long recuperation, he was stationed at the Hydrographer's Department at the Admiralty, where he became an expert on various aspects of naval history, cartography, and expeditions of the polar regions. He gained permission in 1920 to restore the marine chronometers of John Harrison, and this work was completed in 1933. Jeremy Irons played him in Longitude, a dramatisation of Dava Sobel's book about John Harrison Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time, which recounted in part Gould's work in restoring the chronometers.

Something of a polymath, he wrote an eclectic series of books on topics ranging from horology to the Loch Ness Monster. He was a member of the Sette of Odd Volumes (Brother Hydrographer) and the book Oddities is dedicated to the club. He was a science educator, giving a series of talks for the BBC's Children's Hour starting in January 1934 under the name "The Stargazer", and these collected talks were later published. He was a member of the BBC radio panel Brains Trust. He umpired tennis matches on the Centre Court at Wimbledon on many occasions during the 1930s. This is his chapter on Marin Mersenne (and of course Fermat). The reference to Mr R.E. Powers 'an American computer' dates the book, back then it meant 'one who computes..'

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