Christian Mathematicians – Milner

By Steve Bishop

(Disclaimer: The views expressed by guest authors do not necessarily reflect those of GodandMath.com. Guest articles are sought after for the purpose of bringing more diverse viewpoints to the topics of mathematics and theology. The point is to foster discussion. To this end respectful and constructive comments are highly encouraged.)

Very Reverend Dr. Isaac Milner (1750-1820)

Very Reverend Dr. Isaac Milner (1750-1820) was born to a working class family in Mabgate, Leeds. His father was a coal miner. He later became the Lucasian professor of mathematics at Cambridge, a post held by Isaac Newton, Charles Babbage, George Stokes, P.A. M. Dirac, Stephen Hawking and today, by the eighteenth holder, Micahel B. Green.

In 1774 he graduated from Cambridge as senior wrangler – best of year in mathematics. He was ordained in 1775. He was elected to be a member of the Royal Society in 1776 and then in 1788 he became President of Queens’ College, Cambridge (1788-1820), despite being an evangelical. Evangelicals at the time were regarded with great suspicion. From 1798-1820 he was the Lucasian professor of mathematics at Cambridge.

Milner had a lifelong friendship with the Christian abolitionist and Member of Parliament William Wilberforce. In 1784 Wilberforce asked Milner to accompany him on a tour of Europe. It was this tour that shaped Wilberforce’s’ mind. Milner also acted as an advisor to the influential evangelical Christian Clapham Sect (a sect in name but not nature) to which Wilberforce belonged. The group was formed by Henry Venn, the great grandfather father of John Venn (of the diagram fame).

In 1792 in poor health he took up the role of the Dean of Carlisle University until his death. Milner was the first evangelical to be appointed to the staff of a cathedral.

He co-authored with his brother Joseph the important work The History of the Church of Christ.

Milner requested that his many personal papers and journal entries were burned after his death. Fortunately, his great niece Mary managed to utilise many of these resources before they were destroyed in his biography.

References

http://www.lucasianchair.org/19/milner.html

Melaas-Swanson, Barbara J. (1993) “The Life and Thought of the Very Reverend Dr Isaac Milner and His Contribution to the Evangelical Revival in England” PhD Thesis University of Durham.

Steve Bishop is the compiler of A Bibliography for a Christian Approach to Mathematics and the author of several articles on the relationship between faith and math. Look for future posts from him in this series on Christian Mathematicians.

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Christian Mathematicians – Cundy

By Steve Bishop

(Disclaimer: The views expressed by guest authors do not necessarily reflect those of GodandMath.com. Guest articles are sought after for the purpose of bringing more diverse viewpoints to the topics of mathematics and theology. The point is to foster discussion. To this end respectful and constructive comments are highly encouraged.)

Henry Martyn Cundy (1913-2005)

The Schools Maths Project (SMP) has shaped much of the English and Welsh schools maths curriculum. One of the key people behind it was Henry Martyn Cundy. His obituary in The Times described him as: “A mathematician of exceptional influence in school mathematics” (Thwaites, 2005).

Cundy, born in 1913 in Derby, was the son of an evangelical Anglican vicar. He attended the Christian Monkton Coombe school as a border in 1927 and went on to study mathematics at Trinity College, Cambridge in 1932.

He obtained his doctorate in the area of quantum theory in 1938. He then moved into teaching obtaining a post at the Sherborne public school in Dorset. He remained there until 1966.

Geoffrey Howson describes a meeting with Cundy:

“I realised that I was in the company of someone quite outstanding, with knowledge and interests extending far beyond mathematics, and who, within mathematics, possessed an enviable ability to structure and make connections between various topics and to communicate his thoughts with great fluency and clarity.”

Cundy was a committed Christian. He was secretary of the Cambridge Prayer Fellowship and in 1945 wrote The Faith of a Christian (Inter-Varsity Fellowship). He was an active member of the Anglican church and a Methodist local preacher.

In 1951 Cundy collaborated with A. P. Rollett to write Mathematical Models. In the preface they describe the aim of the book:

Mathematics is often regarded as the bread and butter of science. If the butter is omitted, the result is indigestion, loss of appetite, or both. The purpose of this book is to suggest some ways of buttering the bread. The human mind can seldom accept completely abstract ideas; they must be derived from, or illustrated by, concrete examples. Here the reader will find ways of providing for himself tangible objects which will bring that necessary contact with reality into the symbolic world of mathematics.

The SMP changed the British school mathematics curriculum. One of the instigators Sir Brian Thwaites in his obituary on Cundy describes it:

In 1961, however, there came the opportunity for decisive influence on school mathematics. In that year three heads of mathematics – Tom Jones from Winchester , Douglas Quadling from Marlborough with Martyn Cundy from Sherborne – met largely at the instigation of Bryan Thwaites (then a professor at Southampton and now Sir Bryan) to consider formulating new syllabuses at O- and A-level. They were an exceptional and remarkable trio and it is unlikely that such a powerful group could be formed nowadays from schools. They were hugely ambitious in their plans which included not merely new content but the writing of entirely new, and novel, texts and teachers’ guides, together with a large continuing programme of residential teacher-training courses. For these purposes, many more teachers became involved and a formal organisation was created with the name The School Mathematics Project. The SMP (as it became known) rapidly became the dominant player in the reform of school mathematics and its influence spread internationally and notably in Africa. And now, it is the only project of those heady years of curriculum reform in the early sixties which still operates.

His missionary zeal – for both mathematics and Christianity – led him to take up a post at the University of Malawi. There he became an elder in the Presbyterian Church of Malawi as well as professor of Mathematics at the University.

His son Ian (1945-2009) graduated from Cambridge in mathematics and theology he became the Bishop of Lewes and then the 37th Bishop of Peterborough. His other two sons David and Tim became mathematics teachers.

References

Howson, Geoffrey (2005) Independent 8 March.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/hmartyncundy-6150831.html

Thwaites, Brian  (2005) Times obituary

http://www.oldshirburnian.org.uk/index.php/obituaries/94-cundyhenrymartynstaff-1938-1966

Further resources

Cundy was a regular contributor to the Mathematical Gazette

http://www.jstor.org/action/doBasicSearch?Query=au:”H.+Martyn+Cundy“&wc=on

 

Steve Bishop is the compiler of A Bibliography for a Christian Approach to Mathematics and the author of several articles on the relationship between faith and math. Look for future posts from him in this series on Christian Mathematicians.

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Christian Mathematicians – Martyn

By Steve Bishop

(Disclaimer: The views expressed by guest authors do not necessarily reflect those of GodandMath.com. Guest articles are sought after for the purpose of bringing more diverse viewpoints to the topics of mathematics and theology. The point is to foster discussion. To this end respectful and constructive comments are highly encouraged.)

Henry Martyn 1781-1812

 Henry Martyn was first wrangler in mathematics at Cambridge (top scholar of the the year). He was elected as a fellow of St John’s College.

After hearing the Anglican preacher Charles Simeon on William Carey and his sacrifice, Martyn he gave up an academic career and chose to go overseas as a missionary to India and Persia.

Martyn was born in Truro, Cornwall to a mine agent. He was educated first at Truro Grammar school and then at St John’s Cambridge.  After hearing about Carey and reading of David Brainard. He was ordained in 1832 and went on to become Simeon’s curate at Holy Trinity, Cambridge.

He had intended to work as an overseas missionary for the CMS, but for financial reasons he had to take a paid role as chaplain to the British East Indies company. He arrived in India in 1806. One of the first things he did on arriving was to visit William Carey at Serampore. Carey was impressed by Martyn and is alleged to have said that “where Martyn went no other missionary would be needed” (Pouncy 1920). Martyn made his way on to Dinapur and then in 1809 to Cawnpore.

All the while he was in India he utilized his mathematics skills as a linguist and translated the New Testament into Urdu and Persian.

He set sail for Bombay in 1811. He then sailed to Shiraz in Iran. In Iran he became unwell and intended to travel to Constantinople for a more agreeable climate. Sadly, at the age of 31 he died in 1812 at Topkat in Armenia on his way to Constantinople.

Martyn’s life has been an inspiration for many Christians and his name lives on with the work of the Henry Martyn Centre in Cambridge.

 References

Pouncy, A. G. 1920 Henry Martyn 1781-1812: The first modern apostle to the Mohammedan Great Churchmen vol 9. Church Book Room Press

Further resources

There have been a number of biographies including:

Bentley-Taylor, David. 1975. My Love Must Wait: the Story of Henry Martyn, Leicester: IVP.

Henry, B. V. 2003. Forsaking All for Christ: A Biography of Henry Martyn London: Chapter Two Padwick, Constance. 1953. Henry Martyn: Confessor of the Faith, Inter-Varsity Fellowship: London

Page, Jesse 2003. Henry Martyn: Pioneer Missionary to India and Islam Ambassador publications

Pouncy, A. G. 1920 Henry Martyn 1781-1812: The first modern apostle to the Mohammedan Great Churchmen vol 9. Church Book Room Press

Sargent, John 2010 (original 1819) Memoir of the Rev. Henry Martyn, B.D: Late Fellow of St. John’s College, Cambridge, and Chaplain to the Honourable East India Company (Cambridge Library Collection – Religion)

Steve Bishop is the compiler of A Bibliography for a Christian Approach to Mathematics and the author of several articles on the relationship between faith and math. Look for future posts from him in this series on Christian Mathematicians.

Previous Entries in this Series: