Carl Benjamin Boyer – Wikipedia

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American mathematician and historian (1906–1976)

Carl Benjamin Boyer

Born (1906-11-03)November 3, 1906
Died April 26, 1976(1976-04-26) (aged 69)
Nationality American
Occupation Historian of mathematics

Carl Benjamin Boyer (November 3, 1906 – April 26, 1976) was an American historian of sciences, and especially mathematics. Novelist David Foster Wallace called him the “Gibbon of math history”.[2] It has been written that he was one of few historians of mathematics of his time to “keep open links with contemporary history of science.”[3]

Life and career[edit]

Boyer was valedictorian of his high school class. He received a B.A. from Columbia College in 1928 and an M.A. in 1929. He received his Ph.D. in Mathematics from Columbia University in 1939.[1] He was a full professor of Mathematics at the City University of New York’s Brooklyn College from 1952 until his death, although he had begun tutoring and teaching at Brooklyn College in 1928.[1]

Along with Carolyn Eisele of CUNY’s Hunter College; C. Doris Hellman of the Pratt Institute, and later CUNY’s Queens College; and Lynn Thorndike of Columbia University, Boyer was instrumental in the 1953 founding of the Metropolitan New York Section of the History of Science Society.[4]

In 1954, Boyer was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship to further his work in the history of science. In particular, the grant made reference to “the history of the theory of the rainbow”.[5]

Boyer wrote the books The History of the Calculus and Its Conceptual Development (1959),[6] originally published as The Concepts of the Calculus (1939),[7]History of Analytic Geometry (1956),[8]The Rainbow: From Myth to Mathematics (1959),[9] and A History of Mathematics (1968).[10] He served as book-review editor of Scripta Mathematica.[11]

Boyer died of a heart attack in New York City in 1976.

In 1978, Boyer’s widow, the former Marjorie Duncan Nice, a professor of history,[12] established the Carl B. Boyer Memorial Prize, to be awarded annually to a Columbia University undergraduate for the best essay on a scientific or mathematical topic.[13]



  1. ^ a b c Dauben, Joseph Warren and Scriba, Christoph J. (2002) Writing the history of mathematics: its historical development, Birkhäuser. Cf. pp.380-381 for the biography of Boyer.
  2. ^ Wallace, David Foster. “An excerpt from Everything and More. Archived from the original on 2012-02-19. Retrieved 2007-08-28.
  3. ^ Gray, Jeremy (2016) “Histories of Modern Mathematics in English in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s” in Remmert, Volker R.; Schneider, Martina; and Kragh Sørensen, Henrik (eds.) Historiography of Mathematics in the 19th and 20th Centuries Birkhäuser. p.161. ISBN 9783319396491
  4. ^ Gleason, Mary Louise (1999) “The Metropolitan New York Section of the History of Science Society”, Isis, Vol. 90, Supplement: Catching up with the Vision: Essays on the Occasion of the 75th Anniversary of the Founding of the History of Science Society, pp. S200-S218. University of Chicago Press on behalf of The History of Science Society
  5. ^ Staff (May 3, 1954) “Guggenheim Fund Grants $1,000,000” The New York Times
  6. ^ OCLC=916224186
  7. ^ Library of Congress Online Catalog, BIBLD=8312338
  8. ^ Library of Congress Online Catalog, BIBLD=7462342
  9. ^ Library of Congress Online Catalog, BIBLD=3111320
  10. ^ Library of Congress Online Catalog, BIBLD=3121041
  11. ^ Scripta Mathematica. 1950. Retrieved 2007-10-21.
  12. ^ Unknown (March 21, 2010) “Marjorie Boyer” (paid obituary), The New York Times
  13. ^ “Columbia College Bulletin:Prizes and Fellowships”. Retrieved 2009-02-20.

Further reading

External links[edit]