Isobel Jessie Falconer


  • KY16 9SS

    United Kingdom

Accepting Postgraduate Research Students

Personal profile

Research overview

Personal website (for lots more detail, and preprints of some papers not available below):

I am interested in the relations between maths and physics in the nineteenth century, and the interaction of both with the cultural context. I’ve recently been exploring some of these as cases of epistemic injustice, and I am leading a collaborative project with the University of Bonn on how we came to believe in a universal gravitational constant. Another current project examines the ‘career’ opportunities provided by astronomy for women in the early modern period.

I support work on the MacTutor archive of mathematicians developed by my colleagues Edmund Robertson and John O’Connor. In 2019-20 I led an EPSRC-funded project to migrate MacTutor to a new, sustainable and more robust platform, and in 2022 for a further project to develop a team editing interface that will enable MacTutor to broaden its group of contributors, bringing in expertise in other areas of mathematics/statistics/astronomy and in international perspectives. I have also promoted the growth of MacTutor’s coverage of female and non-Western mathematicians, especially the inclusion of details of 600 African men and women with PhDs in mathematics

I am an experienced supervisor at Masters and PhD level: recently I have been supervising projects in 17th/18th century Scottish mathematics, and female mathematicians at St Andrews around 1900.

I am an executive committee member of the International Commission on the History of Mathematics, elected by the International Mathematical Union. I am a Council member of the British Society for the History of Mathematics. I was appointed an MBE by Her Majesty the Queen in the Queen's Birthday Honours list in June 2022 for services to the history of mathematics and science.

I taught part time for the UK Open University for over 30 years. For 8 years I juggled teaching and history of mathematics research with educational research into open educational resources.


Teaching activity

I am module coordinator for MT2901 Mathematical Concepts Through History (part of the Combined Studies Programme), and the VIP (vertically integrated project) Curious St Andrews. I supervise honours projects in the history of mathematics on a wide variety of topics. I am committed to fostering research-teaching linkages and supervise around half a dozen summer project students for whom funding is available. Two current projects are:

  • Tracing students from outside Britain who studied maths at St Andrews prior to 1939. This project was begun by Emma Baxter, an undergraduate research assistant, and is now being persued by a team of summer students on a STEP project, who aim to produce posters about the students
  • tracing the social backgrounds and careers of early female maths students who studied at St Andrews around 1900, conducted by a succession of undergraduate research assistants.

Former projects have included "Women "Computers" at the Royal Observatory Edinburgh",  conducted by Joseph Luke, an undergraduate Laidlaw scholar, and women’s access to mathematics in Scotland during the Enlightenment an honours project by Amie Morrison which has recently been published.

I am a experienced supervisor at Masters and PhD level

Other expertise

For eight years I was a consultant, and lecturer/senior lecturer, in learning technology, mainly at Glasgow Caledonian University, with research interests in open educational practices, and in representation of teaching practice. I was an expert advisor on the OECD-CERI project on Open Educational Resources. In 2014 I led GCU’s successful bid on the  EC-funded ExplOERer project. In 2012-13 I led the EC-funded OER4Adults project, which broke new ground in looking at the experiences of those providing open educational resources for adults in non-formal as well as formal settings. Previously I was a member of the JISC-funded Open Educational Resources Evaluation and Synthesis team, a consultant on the NTFS-funded SHARE project, and co-investigator on the Mod4L project which investigated representational models of teaching practice.

I have considerable practical experience of teaching, and developing materials for, distance education, with the UK Open University

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land


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Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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