Person: Hogben, Lancelot
Lancelot Hogben was a biologist who wrote Mathematics for the Million, one of the most popular mathematics books of all time. As well as many important contributions to biology, he published on linguistics and statistics.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- We note at this point that George Hamilton Hogben became a medical doctor and became a medical officer of health for Hornsey and Tottenham, London.
- Lancelot was brought up in a very strict austere regime determined by his parents' Methodist beliefs.
- Lancelot, whose parents decided that he must become a Methodist missionary, had been named after the Methodist missionary the Reverend Lancelot Railton.
- At first Lancelot did not excel at the Middlesex County Secondary School.
- Hogben began his university studies at Trinity College in October 1913 having sought the cheapest possible accommodation.
- His tutor was the mathematician Ernest William Barnes and this proved a major influence in Hogben's religious development.
- Although Hogben had turned against the fundamentalist views of his parents before matriculating at Trinity College, he was still attending Methodist services when he became a student.
- In Hogben's first year at Cambridge the seemingly inevitable path towards a war was clear.
- Hogben was saddened to see his Methodist contemporaries enthusiastically joining the Officers Training Corps and a student friend suggested he might like to join the Quakers.
- Hogben, however, saw that the Military Service Act changed things - he had undertaken this war work voluntarily but if he continued he would be doing it to avoid conscription.
- C A M Hogben became a medic and served as Professor and Executive Officer in Physiology at George Washington University in Washington D.C. and then as Professor and Head of the Physiology and Biophysics Department in the University of Iowa.
- At this time, Hogben was living in a cottage near Amersham and commuted by train every day.
- While on the train he did the mathematical homework set by Hyman Levy and, as was always the case with Hogben, made his own studies of the subject.
- In 1922 Hogben moved to Edinburgh, taking up the position of Deputy Director of the Animal Breeding Research Laboratory.
- Hogben was awarded a Mackinnon Research Studentship by the Royal Society to support his work in Edinburgh.
- They stayed in Canada for only a short while, however, for in January 1927 they sailed on an Elder Dempster cargo boat to South Africa where Hogben was appointed to the Chair of Zoology in Cape Town.
- Perhaps the main reason that Hogben deserves a biography in a History of Mathematics Archive is the fact that he wrote Mathematics for the Million (1936), one of the most popular mathematics books ever published.
- Much of the time, Hogben chose to talk about mathematics with these Education Diploma students.
- Despite South Africa being a "zoologist's paradise," there was one aspect of the country that Hogben detested, namely the increasing moves towards apartheid.
- The British Association met in Cape Town in 1929 and Hogben's outstanding contributions to the meeting led to his increasingly high reputation among British scientists.
- According to standard histories of this appointment, he and R A Fisher FRS both applied for the position, but Hogben was selected over Fisher.
- Neither Fisher nor Hogben was ever an official candidate for the chair.
- Indeed, Fisher seems not to have applied for the position at all, and Hogben was approached only behind the scenes of the official search.
- In 1933 Hogben became ill and required an operation on his sinuses.
- At this time Hogben was keen to become a fellow of the Royal Society and he felt that publishing Mathematics for the Million would damage his chances.
- Hogben replied that he might have just something in one of his drawers that would fit the bill.
- The success of Mathematics for the Million encouraged Hogben to publish a similar work Science for the Citizen: A Self-Educator Based on the Social Background of Scientific Discovery (1938) based on lectures he had been asked to deliver to Civil Service candidates.
- They spent two months in Sweden, during which time Hogben translated Swedish books into English, then they flew to Moscow, took the trans-Siberian railway to Vladivostok, continued to Japan, sailed from there to San Francisco, then took a train to New York.
- Hogben seemed to me to leave Aberdeen without the very least tinge of regret, a little to my surprise.
- It was the start of a new direction for Hogben who now, when he returned to Birmingham in 1947, worked on medical statistics.
- In 1961 Hogben retired from Birmingham and was made an Honorary Senior Fellow in Linguistics.
Born 9 December 1895, Southsea, Portsmouth, Hampshire, England. Died 22 August 1975, Wrexham, Wrexham, Wales.
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