Person: Booth, James
James Booth was an Irish-born mathematician who was made a bishop and who exercised considerable influence in the development of mathematical education.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- James' parents owned a small property at Lavagh which is close to the small village of Drumsna on the river Shannon.
- In was in Drumsna, at a small school run by Parson Kane, that Booth received his early education.
- Booth entered Trinity College, Dublin, in 1825.
- Teaching of both mathematics and physics at Trinity College had been greatly modernised by Bartholomew Lloyd, and Booth entered a university teaching the up-to-date continental approach to these topics.
- Booth was awarded a scholarship in 1829 and graduated with a B.A. in 1832.
- Booth then attempted to win a fellowship at Trinity College.
- Although Booth was highly placed in each of his attempts, he failed to win a fellowship.
- All these three were subsequently awarded fellowships but Booth, after five unsuccessful attempts, seems to have given up the struggle in 1840.
- Although written in 1840, this tract was not published until 1843 and by the time it appeared, Booth's address was the Liverpool Collegiate Institution.
- However, Booth's position at the College was short-lived.
- This led to strong opposition from the Church of England, in particular from Bishop James Henry Monk, and in August 1840 the rival Bishop's College opened.
- Bristol College closed at Christmas 1841 and Booth then opened his own private school.
- Booth's paper On the Rectification and Quadrature of the Spherical Ellipse which was published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London in 1842 still gave Booth's position as Principal of Bristol College.
- The paper gives a number of interesting theorems which relate to research by James MacCullagh and Charles Graves at Trinity College, Dublin.
- In 1842 Booth was ordained a deacon by the Bishop of Exeter and, later that year, ordained a priest by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
- Booth remained in Liverpool for five years and during that time he was President of the Literary and Philosophical Society of Liverpool, addressing that Society in 1846.
- Booth's interest in school education led to his most lasting contribution for we will see below that he was to bring in educational ideas which today are a standard part of the system.
- In this 73-page tract, Booth called for a national examination system.
- This tract attracted much attention and Booth was encouraged to find ways to achieve his aims of setting up national examinations.
- While he was in Liverpool, Booth travelled frequently to London where he lectured at the Royal Society.
- On 22 January 1846 Booth was elected as a fellow of the Royal Society of London, partly for his lectures at the Society and partly for his published geometrical works.
- In 1852 Booth joined the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce which is usually known by the short version of its name, the Royal Society of Arts.
- In December of that year Booth was asked to join the Council of the Society and he rapidly pressed his case for national examinations.
- In November 1855, Booth delivered the lecture On the female education of the industrial classes at the at the Mechanics' Institution in Wandsworth.
- Booth was an examiner for Mathematics, Physics and Geography for this first set of examinations.
- Booth was chairman of the Council in 1855-56 but resigned in 1857 feeling that fellow members thought that he was driving the Society faster and further than it wanted in the direction of national examinations.
- It was not just mathematical education which now interested Booth for he continued his interest in mathematical research.
- We have described some of Booth's activities in London, but not said anything about his various roles within the Church.
- This was in the gift of the Royal Astronomical Society who proposed Booth as vicar.
- Although Booth was not a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, they considered his contributions to science and education made him worthy of the position.
- Booth made a final attempt to bring his mathematical ideas to the fore.
Born 25 August 1806, Lavagh, County Leitrim, Ireland. Died 15 April 1878, Stone, Buckinghamshire, England.
View full biography at MacTutor
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Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive