Chrystal addresses the first Edinburgh Mathematical Society meeting

The Edinburgh Mathematical Society was founded in 1883 and the preliminary meeting of the Society was held in the Mathematics Class Room, Edinburgh University, on Friday, 2nd February 1883, at 8 p.m. with Dr Knott in the chair. It was decided to hold the first Ordinary Meeting of the Society on Monday 12 March and Professor Chrystal agreed to give the first address to the Society. They inserted the following advertisement in The Scotsman on Wednesday, 7th March 1883 and Saturday, 10th March 1883.


The FIRST ORDINARY MEETING will be held in the MATHEMATICAL CLASS-ROOM of the UNIVERSITY, on MONDAY March 12, at 7.30 P.M., when Professor CHRYSTAL will give an Address on "Present Fields of Mathematical research". All interested are invited.
C G Knott, Hon. Sec.

A report of the first Ordinary Meeting of the Society appeared in The Scotsman on Tuesday 13 March:


At the first ordinary meeting of the Edinburgh Mathematical Society, held last night in the Mathematical Class-room of the University, Professor Chrystal delivered an address on the present fields of mathematical research. There was a fair attendance.

The time, he said, could scarcely have been better chosen for founding a mathematical society in Scotland. The Mathematical tide was certainly beginning to flow in England - if there was a slight relaxation on the Continent - which was largely due to the influence of such men as Stokes, Cayley, Sir William Thomson, and Professor Tait, and at present in England a large number of able men were devoting themselves to purely mathematical work. They must also have noticed that mathematics was coming fast to the front in America. The starting of the great new mathematical journal there must have tended greatly to stimulate mathematical activity; and the founding of a new college specially devoted to the highest branches of research was already producing remarkable effects.

In Scotland they were unquestionably on the eve of a revolution of their system of secondary education. If they were not, they ought to be. In the meantime, he was not concerned with the raising of the average standards in their schools. He was thinking more of the raising of the maximum. As to the question of the maximum standard, there could be no question whatever that they lay under a reproach - that reproach, in fact, Dr Johnson levelled at them when he said that every man in Scotland could get a mouthful of learning, but no man a bellyful. The reasons for that were not far to seek. They were mainly in the want of that great stimulator of arts and sciences - money. The effect of that revolution must he to raise the demand for highly-trained schoolmasters. So clamant did that want appear to him to be that for several winters back - more particularly this winter - he had been thinking of trying to start something in Edinburgh in the nature of a mathematical seminary. But now in his opinion, the establishment of a Mathematical Society would be a better means of obtaining the object he had in view.

Professor Chrystal went on to refer to the wide range of mathematical science at the present day, and the difficulty of keeping abreast of the literature on the subject, and pointed out the advantages to be secured by the members of the subdividing that work and communicating at the meetings the latest views in the different departments. In concluding, Professor Chrystal referred to some of the leading subjects at present occupying the attention of mathematicians, specially touching on the great development of geometry, for which they were indebted to Monge whom he characterised as the real originator of all that was best in modern geometry.

Professor Blyth, Glasgow, in moving a vote of thanks to Professor Chrystal, spoke of the benefit the Society would be to schoolmasters. Mr Muir, High School, Glasgow, seconded the motion, and touched on the difficulties of teaching algebra in schools, and to the need there was for an elementary text-book on algebra thoroughly scientific in its treatment of the subject. The motion was cordially adopted.

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School of Mathematics and Statistics
University of St Andrews, Scotland