Prof. George Gheverghese Joseph
Honorary Reader, University of Manchester
September 23, 2008, 6:30 p.m.
Mathematical Association of America Carriage House
1781 Church Street, NW
Washington, DC 20036
It is about twenty years since the first edition of ‘The Crest of the Peacock’ came out and over that period there have been considerable changes in the ways that mathematics in non-Western traditions is perceived, particularly by writers of general math history texts. Also, some of the more recent research on the mathematical traditions of the ancient world, notably Mesopotamia, Islamic world, China and India have led to major shifts in the way that these mathematical traditions are perceived particularly by historians of mathematics. A recent source book edited by Victor Katz, has also contributed to a more detailed understanding of the diversity and similarities between some of these traditions. In preparing a third edition of the Crest, I have been made aware of the need to re-evaluate and modify some of the conclusions contained in earlier editions and reprints. In my talk, I plan to do precisely that and consider whether the history of non-Western mathematics has a higher profile and is more rounded now.
George Gheverghese Joseph was born in Kerala, Southern India, and lived in India until he was nine. His family then moved to Mombasa in Kenya where he received his schooling. He studied at the University of Leicester and then worked for six years in Kenya before returning to pursue his postgraduate studies at Manchester.
His teaching and research have ranged over a broad spectrum of subjects in applied mathematics and statistics, including multivariate analysis, mathematical programming and demography. In recent years, however, his research has been mainly on the cultural and historical aspects of mathematics with particular emphasis on the non-European dimensions to the subject and its relevance for mathematics education.
He has travelled widely, holding university appointments in East and Central Africa, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand as well as a Royal Society Visiting Fellowship (twice) in India during which he gave lectures at several universities. In 1992, he addressed a special session of the American Association for the Advancement of Science at Boston.
In 1993 he was invited by the African National Congress of South Africa to take part in a Workshop on 'Mathematics Curriculum Reconstruction for Society in Transition'. In recent years he has been invited to lecture at Hobart, Monash, Perth and Sydney in Australia; at Cornell, Los Angeles, New Mexico, New York, Berkeley and Chicago in the United States; at York, Laval and Toronto in Canada; at Western Cape and Durban in South Africa; at UNAM in Mexico; at Cave Hill in Barbados; at Singapore and at various universities in Portugal, Spain, Italy, Netherlands, Germany and Norway as well as the United Kingdom.
He was invited to Cuba to give the keynote address at the 1st International Conference on Mathematics and Mathematics Education in 1996. In 1997 he gave the Aldis Lecture at the University of Auckland, New Zealand and went on a British Council sponsored lecturing tour to various universities in New Zealand. In January 2000, he organised an International Seminar and Colloquium to commemorate the 1500th year of Aryabhata's famous text, Aryabhateeyam, which was held in Thiruvanthapuram, Kerala, India.
He has appeared on radio and televisions programmes in India, United States, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand as well as United Kingdom. His publications include four books: Women at Work ( Philip Allan, Oxford, 1983), The Crest of the Peacock: Non-European Roots of Mathematics ( 1st Hardback Edition, Tauris, 1991; 1st Paperback Edition, Penguin 1992, 2nd Edition, jointly by Penguin Books and Princeton University Press, 2000, 3rd Edition, forthcoming), Multicultural Mathematics: Teaching Mathematics from a Global Perspective (Oxford University Press, 1993) and George Joseph: Life and Times of a Kerala Christian Nationalist (Orient Longman, 2003). A Malayalam translation of the book came out in 2008. The last named book is a political biography of his grandfather, George Joseph, a close associate of Mahatma Gandhi, Jawarhalal Nehru and other leaders of modern India. His book, The Crest of the Peacock, has been translated into Italian, Japanese and Spanish. There have been recent translations into Malayalam (2006) and Farsi (2006).
In October 2000, he qualified in law and was called to the Bar of the Middle Temple, London. At present he holds appointments at Universities of Manchester and Toronto and spends about three months every years in Kerala conducting research on math history of that area.