Women's participation in mathematics in Scotland, 1730-1850

Amie Morrison*, Isobel Jessie Falconer

*Corresponding author for this work

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The eighteenth century saw a flourishing of scientific and philosophical thought throughout Scotland, known as the Scottish Enlightenment. The accomplishments of prominent male figures of this period have been well documented in all disciplines. However, studies of women’s experiences are relatively sparse. This paper partially corrects this oversight by drawing together evidence for women’s participation in mathematics in Scotland between 1730 and 1850. In considering women across all social classes, it argues for a broad definition of ‘mathematics’ that includes arithmetic and astronomy, and assesses women’s opportunities for engagement under three headings: education, family, and sociability. It concludes that certain elements of Scottish Enlightenment culture promoted wider participation by women in mathematical activities than has previously been recognized, but that such participation continued to be circumscribed by societal views of the role of women within family formation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2-23
Number of pages22
JournalBritish Journal for the History of Mathematics
Issue number1
Early online date25 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Education
  • Women’s history
  • History of mathematics
  • Enlightenment
  • Scottish history


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