A Locally Compact REU in the History of Mathematics: Involving Undergraduates in Research

Author(s):

Betty Mayfield (Hood College) and Kimberly Tysdal (Hood College)

2007: The Year of Euler. That was the year we decided to try an experiment -- doing summer research in the history of mathematics with a group of undergraduate students. The choice of a topic seemed obvious: how could we study anyone but Euler? But so much had been done already in anticipation of the big year; the MAA alone had just published five new books about Euler and his mathematics. It seemed unlikely that we could contribute anything new over the course of one summer. So we shifted our focus slightly. Drawing on our interest in women’s contributions to mathematics, and the fact that we ended up with four young women as our research partners, we chose as our topic female mathematicians in the time of Euler. We planned to look at their educational opportunities, the kinds of mathematics they did, who they were, what their lives were like. If we were particularly fortunate, maybe we would even discover someone new!