Person: May, Kenneth Ownsworth
Kenneth May was an American mathematician and historian of mathematics best known for founding the journal Historia Mathematica.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- May entered the University of California, Berkeley, intending to major in mathematics but also taking a wide range of subjects.
- Evans had spotted May's talents soon after becoming the Head of Department and encouraged him to think about research in applying statistics to problems of national economic planning.
- This was an area that interested both Evans and May, so May studied for his Master's Degree in session 1936-37 with this in mind, taking courses in mathematics, economics and physics.
- This would provide an excellent background to the topic that May was intending to research for his doctorate.
- This is the first sign that May was becoming interested in the history of mathematics, the topic for which he is best remembered today.
- Kenneth and Ruth May spent the winter of 1938-39 in Paris where May continued his studies of statistics and economics at the Sorbonne.
- In the summer of 1939 they left Paris on a visit to the Soviet Union and May discussed his ideas with academics in Moscow, Kiev and Kharkov.
- After returning to Berkeley, May was appointed as an assistant at the University teaching courses on financial mathematics, analytic geometry and calculus.
- May now became fully occupied in Communist activities.
- May tried to enlist but his Communist affiliations made the authorities reluctant to see him serve in the U.S. army.
- Sent to Italy with the U.S. Army, May served with great bravery and courage.
- From 1946 May published on mathematical economics with papers such as The aggregation problem for a one-industry model (1946),Probabilities of certain election results (1948), Economics and technology: Production functions (1950) and Econometric models of the national economy (1952).
- In 1964 May left Carleton College and spent two years at Berkeley where he was appointed as a visiting scholar and research mathematician.
- In 1968 May attended the International Congress on the History of Science in Paris and discussed with Rene Taton and Adolph Pavlovich Yushkevich the need for a specialist journal on the history of mathematics.
- Indeed at the following International Congress on the History of Science in Moscow in 1971, a commission was set up and May was elected as chairman.
- May was the editor and, remarkably, his efforts had produced about 700 subscribers to this first issue from 39 countries.
- May wrote the paper What is good history and who should do it?
- In the same year that Historia Mathematica was founded, May founded the Canadian Society for History and Philosophy of Mathematics.
- Sadly, however, May's health took a turn for the worse.
- Despite taking these precautions, May died from a heart attack in December 1977.
Born 8 July 1915, Portland, Oregon, USA. Died 1 December 1977, Toronto, Canada.
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