Sylvia Nickerson, B.F.A.,
B.A., M.A., Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Institute
for History and Philosophy of Science and Technology (IHPST), University of
Toronto

Sessional Lecturer, Department
of Mathematics and Statistics, McMaster University

Content Editor, *Bulletin of
the Canadian Society for the History and Philosophy of Mathematics*

IÕm a historian of mathematics and
science. This page is dedicated to my academic work. I also work as a professional
artist. My artistic work can be found here at http://www.sylvianickerson.ca/. We
can understand many things using mathematics. I enjoy going back to discover
how people came to know tools and concepts we take for granted as canonical in
mathematics. But some experiences we cannot understand with mathematics.
Emotional states, narratives and identities are themes I explore in my artistic
work.

RESEARCH

My research explores mathematics and
science as forms of creative literature. I examine how mathematics and our
perceptions about it are shaped by cultural imagination and material process in
the same ways other written literatures have been. My interest in the history
of mathematics reflects my personal connection to the field as a history of
creative thought.

ARTICLES & BOOK CHAPTERS

(forthcoming) ÒMarrying
the radical, the conventional, and the mystical: Mathematics, gender and
religion in the lives of William Kingdon and Lucy
Lane Clifford,Ó in* *special issue
of* Endeavour *on the theme of Calculating Couples: Domesticity and Gender
in the Making of Mathematical Careers, ed. David E. Dunning
and Brigitte Stenhouse.

(2020) with Bernard Lightman and Parandis Tajbakhsh, ÒFrom Conflict to Complexity: Historians and
Nineteenth Century Public Perceptions of Science and ReligionÓ, in* Identity in a Secular Age: Science,
Religion and Public Perceptions*, ed. Fern Elsdon-Baker
and Bernard Lightman, University of Pittsburgh Press,
p. 13-29.

(2019) ÒDarwinÕs Publisher: John Murray III at the
intersection of science and religionÓ in**
***Rethinking History, Science and Religion: An Exploration of Conflict and
the Complexity Principle*, ed. Bernard Lightman,
University of Pittsburgh Press, p. 110-128.

(2015) ÒMathematics for the World: Publishing Mathematics
and the International Book Trade, Macmillan and Co.Ó chapter nine in *Research in History and Philosophy of
Mathematics*, Proceedings of the Canadian Society for History and Philosophy
of Mathematics, Maria Zack and Elaine Landry (eds),
New York: BirkhŠuser, p. 121-137.

(2013) ÒReferees, PublisherÕs Readers and the Image of Mathematics in Nineteenth
Century EnglandÓ, winner of the Peter Isaac Essay Prize, *Publishing History* 71: 27-67.

(2013) ÒTaking a
Stand: Exploring the role of the scientist prior to the first Pugwash Conference on Science and World Affairs, 1957Ó, *Scientia** Canadensis* 36: 63-87.

(2008)
ÒRussell, Clifford, Whitehead and Differential GeometryÓ with Nicholas Griffin,
*Russell: The Journal of Bertrand Russell
Studies* n.s. 28: 20-38.

UPCOMING
PRESENTATIONS

(2023) *W.K. Clifford's Philosophical areligion informs his Algebra and Geometry* (invited),
Special Sessions on the History of Mathematics, Joint Mathematics Meetings of
the American Mathematical Society and Mathematical Association of America,
Boston

(2022)
*Calculating Couples:* *W.K. and Lucy Clifford *(invited), School
of Mathematics and Statistics, The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK.

RESEARCH
PUBLICITY

Science
journalist Dan Falk wrote about my research into John Murray III, the man who
published *Origin of Species* as well
as many of DarwinÕs other works. One might assume Murray was a naturalist
looking to displace natural theology as the dominant worldview, but I contend
this was not the case. ÒDarwinÕs publisher didnÕt believe in evolution, but
sold his revolutionary book anywayÓ by Dan Falk, *Smithsonian Magazine*, February 12, 2020, https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/how-darwins-publisher-changed-worlddespite-his-own-objections-180974189/.
An amateur geologist himself, Murray wrote a very interesting anonymous book
under the pseudonym ÒVerifierÓ, the title being *Skepticism
in Geology and the Reasons for It*. In this book he argued that
so-called Òmodern causesÓ (those justifying LyellÕs uniformitarian view of
geology, for instance) have no validity. He did not embrace the modern
scientific worldview, and in fact, worked against the public adoption of this
worldview in his publication ventures.

EDITORIAL PROJECTS

(2020-current) Editor, *Canadian Society for History and
Philosophy of Mathematics Bulletin*. Responsible
for writing, collecting and assembling member and society news, editorials and
event listings pertaining to history of mathematics for this biannual
publication. Are you interested in contributing an editorial, book review or
other column to the *Bulletin*? Please
contact me at s.nickerson at utoronto.ca!

(2014-2017)
Editorial Assistant, *The
Correspondence of* *John Tyndall** *(University of Pittsburgh Press). Among the 7000 letters published in this
multi-volume, multi-year editorial project, I transcribed and edited more than
400. Attending bi-weekly editorial team meetings, I helped shape the projectÕs
digital strategy, managed research assistants, wrote scripts about the Tyndall
project and edited images for vols. 2-5. John Tyndall was an English
experimental physicist, scientific naturalist, public figure and popularizer of science, avid glacier explorer and mountain
climber in the nineteenth century.

COLLABORATIVE RESEARCH PROJECTS

I have proposed a collaborative project that would bring
together artists and historians to reimagine and center underrepresented voices
in the history of mathematics. This project ÒHealing the Archive: History of
Mathematics,Ó is currently being adjudicated for funding from the Canada
Council for the Arts.

I held a Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in the Science and
Technology Studies department at York University under the direction of Bernard
Lightman and Fern Elsdon-Baker, co-principal investigators of the multidisciplinary
research project Science and
Religion: Exploring the Spectrum.

TEACHING

I teach courses in history of
mathematics and science, science communication, data visualization and
creativity at University of Toronto and McMaster University.

__MAT 391 History of Mathematics after
1700 \ HPS 391 Rebels Who Count: The History of
Mathematics from 1700 to the Present (IHPST, University of Toronto) __

This cross-listed
course in the Faculty of Arts and Science begins with history of mathematics
after the invention of calculus. The course focuses on exploring the growth and
increasing abstraction of mathematics in the modern period. Topics we cover are
how to apply philosophical positions about mathematics to think about history,
invention of the function concept, infinite series, invention of graph theory, complex numbers,
standardization of units and measures, mathematical education, recreations and
games, projective and non-Euclidean geometry, invention of set theory, history
of computing, ethics in mathematics, gender in history of mathematics and
diversity in STEM, open problems in math today.

__MAT 390 History of Mathematics up
to 1700 \ HPS 390 The Story of Number: Mathematics from the Babylonians to
the Scientific Revolution (IHPST, University of Toronto) __

This cross-listed
course in the Faculty of Arts and Science surveys the earliest record of human
counting up to the invention of calculus.
The course explores how numeracy, like language, is a fundamental
feature of human activity as we explore the invention of numerals and counting
systems in various global cultures and contexts. From there we explore the
beginnings of geometry and algebra, solution to indeterminate equations, how
observing the stars motivated the development of right triangle theory and
trigonometry, the invention of different number concepts (including zero,
negative numbers, complex numbers, irrational numbers, algebraic and
transcendental numbers), methods of proof and justification, what constitutes
plagiarism in mathematics and history of mathematics, birth of probability and
invention of calculus.

__MATH 3Z3 Inquiry — History
of Mathematics (Department of Mathematics and Statistics, McMaster University)__

The course starts
with the observation that numeracy, like language, is a feature of human
activity from the earliest known evidence of human life. From there we go
through a selection of developments in different cultures and contexts from
ancient times to the present day. Some of the topics we cover in this class are
numeracy in ancient civilizations, Greek geometric methods including
quadrature, the classic problems of antiquity, EuclidÕs *Elements*, Archimedes on areas and
volumes, problems and methods from the ancient Chinese text *The Nine Chapters on the Mathematical Art ,* BrahmaguptaÕs invention of zero and solution to the Pell
equation, completing the square with al-Khwarizmi, CardanoÕs
solution of the cubic equation, PascalÕs arithmetical triangle and proof by
induction, infinite series and calculus, the beginnings of graph theory,
invention of set theory, history of computing, the four-colour theorem and
proof by computer, gender in the history of mathematics and diversity in STEM.

__HTHSCI 3KK3 Seeing and Understanding Data (Faculty of Health Sciences,
McMaster University)__

Good visualization
can achieve quick and accurate understanding of significant data. Bad
visualization can lead to misleading the public and misunderstanding research
results. This course mines the history and philosophy of statistics and data
visualization for lessons and strategies applicable to future careers in
science and health science. By reflecting on the evolution of the tools we use
to sample, measure and model data, this course develops critical thinking and
reflection on how we apply these tools in epidemiology and health sciences
today.

__SCICOMM 2A03
Foundations of Science Communication (School of Interdisciplinary Science,
McMaster University)__

How do scientists
make sure their work in the lab or the field is put to good use in communities?
They communicate it to their peers, policymakers and the public. In this course
students learn and practice the basics of effective written visual and oral
science communication through creating lay summaries, graphics and oral
presentations as well as audience profiles and communication proposals. We
conduct study and critique how science is covered in the media past and
present, and explore the growing field of science communication research.
Students gain experience with a wide range of science communication activities
and explore ways they can apply their scientific knowledge and education in
various career trajectories.

__VIC 259H Math and Creativity (Victoria College,
University of Toronto)__

**This course explores the history of mathematics while
building skill in narrative story-telling and image creation to reimagine the
origin of mathematical ideas in accessible and compelling ways. We explode
history and ideas, unpacking concepts in history and mathematics to weave
compelling narratives using fresh perspectives and representations. Course
topics include the concept of infinity, quantification of uncertainty, space
and geometry, pattern and self-similarity, lives of mathematicians and
historical controversies in mathematics. Students are encouraged to build
unique narratives that incorporate or expand upon course topics. Examples of
graphic storytelling will be presented for identification of effective
narrative techniques and visual styles. Aspects of mathematics and its history
are analyzed to enable the retelling, reframing, and re-visioning of the past
from the perspective of the present and studentÕs own voices. Students acquire
skills in media creation tools while exploring how narratives and images describe
and structure our world.**

__HPS211 History of Modern Science (IHPST, University of
Toronto) __

Drawing on episodes in the history of biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics and the human sciences, this course examines conceptual changes in the practice of modern science in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. By investigating the conditions that gave rise to key elements of modern science including evolutionary theory, modern genetics, and the shift from a Newtonian to relativistic understanding of space and time, students assess the impact of major conceptual revolutions in science on contemporary society and culture. Social and ethical issues surrounding these changes are explored, such as science and gender, the scientific study of race, and the making of the atomic bomb.

**TRIUMPHS PROJECTS**

**Instructors in the mathematics and history of
mathematics community have been involved for several years in a National
Science Foundation funded project to write curriculum materials for
undergraduate mathematics courses in which concepts are investigated using
primary historical sources. Not all the projects are appropriate for history of
mathematics courses, but several are and can be adapted for this purpose.
Checkout **TRIUMPHS:
Transforming Instruction in Undergraduate Mathematics via Primary Historical
Sources.** **I have been
using these projects in my courses as well as projects developed earlier from Learning
Discrete Mathematics and Computer Science via Primary Historical Sources.

ART
AND MATHEMATICS

A current interest
is how I can apply what I know from my work in graphic arts to present and communicate
history of mathematics in new and exciting ways. Mathematical objects
illustrated below include NapierÕs bones, spiral defined by the golden ratio,
Hindu-Arabic numerals, CardanoÕs cube for algebraic
solution to the cubic equation, sinusoidal function, Coxeter
graph, Armillary sphere, PascalÕs arithmetical triangle, diagrammatic proof of
the gou gu theorem
(Pythagorean theorem in China), FibonacciÕs rabbit breeding problem, and a
sphere.