Monday, February 19, 2024

Mathematician, Poet -- Blind to the worth of Women

     As we study mathematics and learn of outstanding mathematicians, many of us do not also learn which of those mathematicians also were poets.  A posting that I found recently in Marian Christie's blog, Poetry and Mathematics, features poetry by  Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell (1831-39).

     Maxwell's verse also is featured in the math-poetry anthology, Strange Attractors:  Poems of Love and Mathematics (A.K Peters, Ltd., 2008);  preview available here at

     Below I offer a stanza from a Maxwell poem (posted in this blog back in December, 2015) -- a stanza that shows the long-mistaken attitude that has existed about inferior abilities of math-women: 

      O love! you fail to read the scale
            Correct to tenths of a division.
      To mirror heaven those eyes were given,
            And not for methods of precision.
Break contact, break, set the free light-spot flying;
Break contact, rest thee, magnet, swinging, creeping, dying. 

Maxwell's complete six-stanza poem, "Lectures to Women on Physical Science." is available at this link.

And today, as every day, I celebrate the achievements of women in mathematics.  Visit the website of the Association for Women in Mathematics to learn more and to offer your support.

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