Redressing the Balance 6 : Charlotte Angas Scott

In my final blog on famous female mathematicians we look at the life of an Englishwoman who was very influential in the development of mathematics education for women, Charlotte Angas Scott.

Charlotte Angas Scott was born in 1858 to an English family already well known for their advocacy of social reform. She was home educated from the age of seven by tutors engaged by her father and when she was eighteen gained a place at what is now Girton College, part of Cambridge University. A few years later she was allowed to unofficially take the Cambridge “tripos” exam the successful completion of which resulted in an honours degree for men. Charlotte came eighth out of all the entrants but as she was a woman her name was not included in the official list of graduates and she was not allowed to attend the awards ceremony. It is said that her achievements marked the start of the long journey which led ultimately to Cambridge University at last awarding degrees to women in 1948.

Charlotte did not allow such treatment to get her down however; she went on to gain a Bachelor of Science degree and then a doctorate from the University of London.  In 1885 she moved to the United States of America to work at the newly established women’s college Bryn Mawr where she became Associate Professor of Mathematics. During her time in America she was influential in the beginnings of the American Mathematical Society and she published many papers. She also supervised the doctoral theses of a number of students.

As the first British woman to gain a doctorate in mathematics Charlotte Angas Scott fully deserves her place in any list of influential female mathematicians. She and women like her helped open doors of opportunity to all those now studying GCSE and A level mathematics courses for which we should all be thankful.

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