Oliver Byrne, 19th Century Mathematician from Wicklow

My co-author Sue Hawes and I wrote the most complete biography to date on Oliver Byrne, a 19th century mathematician from Wicklow.  You can find the article on the Mathematical Association of America website


Dr. Sid Kolpas

Extract from biography below, see above link to access all chapters:

Oliver Byrne: The Matisse of Mathematics


An innovator in mathematics education, particularly in the teaching of geometry, Irish-born Oliver Byrne (1810- 1880) lived in England and the United States at a time of prejudice against the Irish. Byrne faced physical and financial hardship and ridicule from his contemporaries for his mathematical and pedagogical innovations. His wife, Eleanor Rugg Byrne, published articles and books in meteorology at a time when women were discouraged from scientific and mathematical pursuits. This most comprehensive biography of Oliver Byrne to date discusses both Oliver’s and Eleanor’s accomplishments and highlights Oliver’s pedagogical philosophy,emphasizing his most innovative, famous, and visually stunning mathematical work on Euclidean geometry,The First Six Books of the Elements of Euclid in Which Coloured Diagrams and Symbols Are Used Instead of Letters for the Greater Ease of Learners. Finally, we will discuss how Byrne’s Euclid, and his pedagogical views, might be used in geometry, mathematics education, and mathematics history classes.

Comments about this page

  • My email is skolpas@verizon.net.  I live in the Philadelphia suburbs.  Oliver Byrne is one of my mathematical heros. Reading his works has positively influenced my teaching methods.  He was far ahead of his time, and therefore ridiculed by his peers .

    By Sid Kolpas (14/08/2018)

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