E T Whittaker retires as President of the Mathematical Association

On Wednesday 5 January 1921 E T Whittaker retired as President of the Mathematical Association to be succeeded by the Rev. Canon J M Wilson. The Scotsman reported the event:

Professor E T Whittaker of the University of Edinburgh, retired today from the office of President of the Mathematical Association which he has held for two years, and is succeeded by the Rev. Canon J M Wilson. At the annual meeting of the Association today the announcement was made that it is proposed to hold the summer meeting of the Association at Edinburgh, from September 7 to September 11, during the session of the British Association. Professor Whittaker hopes that the Edinburgh Mathematical Society will decide to hold its meetings at the same time, and he intends to show the visitors the mathematical laboratory of the University. As a rule the papers read at the Mathematical Association are confined within the limits of technicality, but occasionally the speakers strike out on less restricted lines. For instance, Professor Whittaker in his address as retiring President made an excursion into the dangers of a separation of the ordinary mathematical teacher from contact with research work. The peril was, he said, that the Mathematical profession may he split into two - one associated with University appointments, and devoted to research, and the other regarding research as not within its province. The danger of two such distinct castes, separated from the time of graduation, has been avoided in the past. There was a field for valuable research open which does not require anything extending far beyond an honours course. In this respect Professor Whittaker cited the work carried out by the Edinburgh Mathematical Society, a body largely composed of schoolmasters. It publishes a journal of really original research. Canon Wilson, the new President, spoke in a reminiscent vein of struggles long ago for the reform of the methods of teaching geometry. He is a venerable man now, but in 1870 he was a mathematical master under Dr Temple at Rugby. He recalled with evident pleasure a crowded meeting which he addressed in the High School at Edinburgh in pursuit of his reforming zeal. The fifty years which have intervened seem scarcely to have dimmed his grateful appreciation of the support he got in Scotland in those days. He spoke enthusiastically of it today.

Last Updated November 2007