Pitzer College Professor Jemma Lorenat Wins International Prize for Research in the History of Mathematics

Assistant Professor of Mathematics Jemma Lorenat
Assistant Professor of Mathematics Jemma Lorenat

Claremont, Calif. (October 4, 2017)—Pitzer College Assistant Professor of Mathematics Jemma Lorenat has been awarded the international Montucla Prize for her Historia Mathematica article “Figures real, imagined and missing in Poncelet, Plücker, and Gergonne,” which examines multiple interpretations of a geometric figure—a single conic construction—among three early nineteenth-century mathematicians.

The International Commission for the History of Mathematics (ICHM) awards the Montucla Prize every four years to the author of the best article by a junior scholar published in ICHM’s journal Historia Mathematica. The prize is named after the pioneering historian of mathematics Jean-Etienne Montucla.

In awarding the prize, ICHM’s Executive Committee praised Lorenat’s “painstaking textual analysis” of an intriguing, important subject.

“What is especially admirable in this paper is Lorenat’s mature and highly original intake into historiographical issues concerning the role of diagrams, generality in mathematics, and mathematical practice that are top in the agenda of historians and philosophers of mathematics,” the committee’s award statement reads.

“Last but not least,” ICHM’s statement concludes, “it is a pleasure to read her lucidly written paper.”

Lorenat said she was honored to receive the prestigious prize, named after a pioneer in the specialization in the history of geometry.

“I am delighted that my article has received such a positive response from the community and particularly pleased to see how it has proved useful to both historians and philosophers of mathematics,” Lorenat said.

Lorenat’s work in the history of mathematics focuses on geometry, visualization and mediums of communication in the nineteenth century. She is currently working on a study of how modern geometry adapted to the textbook literature and an analysis of the mathematician Charlotte Angas Scott.

Jemma Lorenat came to Pitzer in 2015 from New York, where she taught at the Pratt Institute and St. Joseph’s College. Her courses at Pitzer include Symbolism, Generality & Abstraction and History of Mathematics. She earned her PhD in mathematics from Simon Fraser University and Université Pierre et Marie Curie, her MA in liberal studies from City University of New York and her BA in mathematics from San Francisco State University.

The International Commission for the History of Mathematics is an inter-union commission joining the International Mathematical Union and the Division of the History of Science of the International Union for the History and Philosophy of Science. It is composed of representatives of more than 50 nations.

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