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The Educational Times Database: Building an Online Database of Mathematics Questions and Solutions Published in a 19th-Century Journal

Author(s): 
Robert M. Manzo (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

More to the point, however, is that nobody knows what these volumes contain.
… A bibliographer of great stamina is called for; and meanwhile a historian
will find many interesting surprises as he browses among its forgotten pages.

– Ivor Grattan-Guinness [1992]

The Educational Times and Journal of the College of Preceptors (ET) was an English academic journal first published in 1847. Aimed at educators across disciplines, it included a mathematical department to which any reader could submit a proposal or a solution for a mathematical problem. Demand for mathematical content from readers, in fact, was high enough to warrant the establishment in 1864 of Mathematical Questions with their Solutions taken from the “Educational Times” (MQ), a sister publication that reprinted and expanded on the ET’s mathematical sections. In 1918, the MQ ceased publication and the ET stopped printing mathematical problems. Over seventy years, the ET/MQ had published over 18,000 problems and 28,000 solutions. The resulting archive has remained of interest to mathematicians in the century since. Out of this interest have emerged various attempts to index the entire run of problems and solutions, so that interested scholars could look up the name of a mathematician to find out if and when she or he contributed to the journals. Most recently, Sloan E. Despeaux, professor of mathematics at Western Carolina University (WCU), North Carolina, has guided the creation of an online database that allows users to search for ET/MQ mathematical contributions by author name, question type, year, and/or volume number. The substantial index underlying the database is a creation of Dr. James Tattersall, Jr., professor of mathematics at Providence College, Rhode Island, who has been the “bibliographer of great stamina” that Grattan-Guinness called for in 1992. Now completed, the ET database aims to fulfill research and pedagogical needs in today’s global mathematics community, with particular relevance to historians of mathematics. The present article consists of five sections on various aspects of the ET database, starting with the two items of greatest practical relevance, followed by three items about the history of the ET/MQ and the database itself:

Robert M. Manzo (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), "The Educational Times Database: Building an Online Database of Mathematics Questions and Solutions Published in a 19th-Century Journal," Convergence (March 2021)