Philadelphia Area Seminar on the History of Mathematics (PASHoM)

This is a seminar of faculty from colleges and universities in the Philadelphia area who share an interest in the history of mathematics, and via Zoom also includes some remote participants. The seminar meets monthly during the academic year, usually  at 6:00 p.m. on a Thursday evening at Villanova University for a light meal (donation $10.00), conversation and a presentation when in-person meetings are possible, but at 6:30-8:00pm via Zoom otherwise. The presentation is usually one hour long starting at 6:30pm and then is followed by open discussion for up to 30 minutes.

This group was established in January 2001 for persons in the greater Philadelphia area to:

and it currently directed by Alan Gluchoff.

To add your name to our emailing list,  send information to Zoom links are sent via email from Alan in response to requests.

Click here for directions to Villanova University.


Driving: Villanova University is located on route 30, Lancaster Avenue, just east of I-476. Set your GPS to
                800 Lancaster Ave, Villanova, PA 19085

Parking: [map, FAQ]
If you drive to the meeting, you may park on the Ithan Avenue I-1 parking garage at the intersection of Lancaster and Ithan Avenues free for 1 hour and then for a low hourly fee after that.

To enter Villanova by the main gate on Ithan Avenue and park in the multilevel M-2 parking garage adjacent to the in-person meeting location of St. Augustine Center, you must fill out an electronic form requested from Alan by email.

Public transportation: Take SEPTA's Paoli - Thorndale train to the Villanova station. If outbound from center city go down through the tunnel to the inbound side. From the inbound platform a few steps lead to a parking lot behind  Mendel. Proceed left to the  next building to the east, St. Augustine Center. 

The in-person meeting location once they resume will be announced. You can get in touch with Alan at his office phone 610-905-1376 if you need help.

PASHoM events

Some recent talks to give a flavor of the group [see archives for additional links to talk materials]:

2023 Fall

September 21, 2023 Lawrence D'Antonio, Ramapo College:
Edmond Halley, Samuel Pepys, and the “Historia Piscium”

In this talk, we will look at the remarkable life of Edmond Halley (1656 – 1742). Not just a predictor of comets, Halley produced the first star catalog of stars visible from the Southern Hemisphere. He also discovered an interesting root solving method, became the Savilian Professor of Geometry at Oxford after the death of Wallis, was a sea captain, and was named the second Astronomer Royal (succeeding John Flamsteed). Halley also played a major role in the Royal Society of London. It was a visit by Halley that encouraged Newton to write the Principia Mathematica and Halley used his own funds to publish the first edition. Halley also played a key role in the controversy surrounding the publication of Flamsteed’s star catalog (the controversy ended with a book burning!). Finally, we will discuss Halley’s election as the Clerk of the Royal Society which will help explain the title of this talk. 

2023 Spring

April 20, 2023 David Richeson, Dickinson College:
A Romance of Many (and Fractional) Dimensions

Dimension seems like an intuitive idea. We are all familiar with zero-dimensional points, one-dimensional curves, two-dimensional surfaces, and three-dimensional solids. Yet dimension is a slippery idea that took mathematicians many years to understand. We will discuss the history of dimension, which includes Cantor’s troubling discovery, the surprise of space-filling curves, the public’s infatuation with the fourth dimension, time as an extra dimension, the meaning of non-integer dimensions, and the unexpected properties of high-dimensional spaces. 

March 16, 2023 Annalisa Crannell, Franklin and Marshall College:
Drawing conclusions from drawing a square

The Renaissance famously brought us amazingly realistic perspective art. Creating that art was the spark from which projective geometry caught fire and grew. This talk looks directly at projective geometry as a tool to illuminate the way we see the world around us, whether we look with our eyes, with our cameras, or with the computer (via our favorite animated movies). One of the surprising results of projective geometry is that it implies that every quadrangle (whether convex or not) is the perspective image of a square. We will describe implications of this result for computer vision, for photogrammetry, for applications of piecewise planar cones, and of course for perspective art and projective geometry. 

February 16, 2023 Ezra Brown, Virginia Tech:
A tour of the birth and early development of finite geometries, combinatorial designs, and normed algebras

In this talk, we give a brief tour of the birth and early development of finite geometries, combinatorial designs, and normed algebras. Arthur Cayley (1845), Jakob Steiner (1853) and Gino Fano (1892) are credited with the creation of (respectively) the 8-dimensional real normed algebra, certain block designs with block size 3, and the first finite geometry. During our tour, we learn about the truly ground-breaking work of Julius Pl ̈ucker, John Graves (motivated by William Hamilton's quaternions), Wesley Woolhouse and Thomas Kirkman, work that anticipated Cayley, Steiner and Fano by one, 18, and 57 years, respectively.

January 19, 2023 Maryam Vulis, St John's University, Norwalk Community College and CCNY:
Ukrainian Mathematicians in the Soviet Ukraine

Our presentation will discuss the work and life of two Ukrainian mathematicians who lived in worked in the Soviet Ukraine - Mykhaylo Kravchuk and Nina Virchenko. The mathematician Mykhaylo Kravchuk was an important part of Ukrainian mathematics who dedicated his life to promoting Ukrainian culture and education. He was a member of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences and in fact, his two-volume publication on differential equations was translated into English by the computer pioneer John Atanasoff who found Kravchuk’s results for his computer construction. Kravchuk was well-known in international circles, and perhaps it cost him his life as he met the fate of many members of intelligentsia. One must mention Nina Virchenko, a mathematics researcher and a follower of Kravchuk. She was also persecuted by Soviets, amazingly survived incarceration in a camp, and continued for decades to work on mathematics and to promote the achievements of Kravchuk. Naturally, the recognition of the Ukrainian mathematicians’ achievements came with Ukrainian gaining independence in 1991.  

Archived Past Events are here.