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.

Previous Entries in this Series:

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:

Christian Mathematicians – Stokes

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.)

George Stokes (1819-1903)

George Gabriel Stokes (1819-1903) was born in a rectory in Skreen, Ireland. He was the son of an evangelical rector, Revd Gabriel Stokes, and the youngest of six children. All three of his elder brothers became vicars.

Stokes attended schools in Skreen, Dublin and Bristol.  He graduated in mathematics from Pembroke College, Cambridge in 1841 and remained at Cambridge until his death in 1903.

He was appointed Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge in 1849. A position previously held by Isaac Barrow, Isaac Newton and Charles Babbage among others. He did much to restore the tradition of mathematical physics in Cambridge. He helped develop the now highly prestigious Cavendish Laboratory. He held the Lucasian chair for 54 years.

He was secretary (1854-1885) and then president (1885-1890) of the Royal Society.

He was an applied mathematician who worked in the area of fluid dynamics (hydrostatics), but also did work on light.

He gave his name to the following:

  • Stokes’ law
  • Stokes’ theorem
  • Stokes line
  • Stokes number
  • Stokes relations
  • Stokes shift and
  • Navier–Stokes equations

Craters on the moon and on Mars have also been named after him.

Stokes was a life long friend and correspondent with physicist and fellow Christian Lord Kelvin (William Thompson).

According to Josipa Petrunic:

“Stokes argued mathematics was, and always would be, secondary to physical experimentation in terms of developing scientific knowledge. While math could help describe and formalize our observations, he claimed, it alone could not prove anything about the various phenomena we observe.” Petrunic (nd)

In 1886 Stokes became the president of the evangelical organization the Victoria Institute (VI) and was vice president of the Evangelical British and Foreign Bible Society and active in the Church Missionary Society. One aim of the VI was:

To investigate fully and impartially the most important questions of Philosophy and Science, but more especially those that bear upon the great truths revealed in Holy Scripture, with the view of defending these truths against the oppositions of Science, falsely so called.

The VI was founded in 1865 and published The Journal of the Transactions of the Victoria Institute from 1867. It is still published under the new title of Faith and Thought. Stokes contributed several articles (see below) to the journal.

He delivered the 1891-93 Gifford lectures on the topic of natural theology. In it he contrasted the idea of divine design with materialism. He maintained that materialism is unable to explain certain phenomena such as the law of gravitation.

References

Petrunic, Josipa (no date) “George Stokes” http://www.giffordlectures.org/Author.asp?AuthorID=160

Articles by Stokes in JTVI

“On the bearings of the Study of Natural Science, etc., on our Religious Ideas,” Journal of the Transactions of the Victoria Institute 14 (1880): 227-248

“On the bearings of the Study of Natural Science, etc., on our Religious Ideas,” Journal of the Transactions of the Victoria Institute 14 (1880): 227-248.

“Annual Address,” Journal of the Transactions of the Victoria Institute 20 (1888):10-15.

“The One Origin of the Books of Revelation and of Nature,” Journal of the Transactions of the Victoria Institute 22 (1890): 11-23.

“The Luminiferous Ether. Annual Meeting,” Journal of the Transactions of the Victoria Institute 28 (1896): 89-103.

“Perception of Light. Annual Address,” Journal of the Transactions of the Victoria Institute 29 (1897): 11-24.

“Rontgen Rays. Annual Address, 1896,” Journal of the Transactions of the Victoria Institute 30 (1898): 13-28.

“Perception of Colour. Annual Address, 1897,” Journal of the Transactions of the Victoria Institute 31 (1899): 254-259.

Further resources

George Gabriel Stokes (1893). Natural theology: The Gifford lectures, delivered before the University of Edinburgh in 1893. Adamant Media Corporation. Available online here: http://www.giffordlectures.org/Browse.asp?PubID=TPNATT&Volume=0&Issue=0&TOC=TRUE

David Wilson, David (1984) A physicist’s alternative to materialism: the religious thought of George Gabriel Stokes. Victorian Studies, 28:69-96, Autumn 1984.

David Wilson, David (1987) Kelvin and Stokes: A Comparative Study in Victorian Physics. Adam Hilger, 1987.

 

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: