Eric Temple Bell

Born: 7 Feb 1883 in Aberdeen, Scotland
Died: 21 Dec 1960 in Watsonville, California, USA

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Eric Temple Bell although born and brought up in Scotland, lived from 1903 in United States. He was educated at Stanford University and at the University of Washington. He received his doctorate from Columbia University in 1912.

Bell taught mathematics at the University of Washington from 1912 until 1926, when he was appointed professor of mathematics at the California Institute of Technology.

Bell wrote several popular books on the history of mathematics. He also made contributions to analytic number theory, Diophantine analysis and numerical functions. The American Mathematical Society awarded him the Bôcher Prize in 1924 for his memoir, Arithmetical paraphrases which appeared in the Transactions of the American Mathematical Society in 1921. Although he wrote 250 research papers, including the one which received the Bôcher Prize, Bell is best remembered for his books, and therefore as an historian of mathematics.

His books Algebraic Arithmetic (1927) and The Development of Mathematics (1940) became classics. At a lower level he wrote books which included Men of Mathematics (1937) and Mathematics, Queen and Servant of Science (1951).

A Broadbent, see [3], described Bell and his writing in the following way:-

His style is clear and exhuberant, his opinions, whether we agree with them or not, are expressed forcefully, often with humour and a little gentle malice. He was no uncritical hero-worshipper being as quick to mark the opportunity lost as the ground gained, so that from his books we get a vision of mathematics as a high activity of the questing human mind, often fallible, but always pressing on the never-ending search for mathematical truth.
Bell did not confine his writing to mathematics and he also wrote science fiction under the name John Taine.

References (4 books/articles)

References elsewhere in this archive:

You can see some pages by Robert M Dickau about Bell numbers.

E T Bell was the American Mathematical Society Colloquium Lecturer in 1927. You can see a history of the AMS Colloquium and a list of the lecturers.
He was the Bocher Prize winner in 1924. You can see a history of the AMS Bocher Prize and a list of the winners.

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JOC/EFR October 1997