Ivor Grattan-Guinness

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Ivor Grattan-Guinness in 2003.

Ivor Owen Grattan-Guinness (23 June 1941 – 12 December 2014) was a historian of mathematics and logic.[1]


Grattan-Guinness was born in Bakewell, England; his father was a mathematics teacher and educational administrator.[1] He gained his bachelor degree as a Mathematics Scholar at Wadham College, Oxford, and an MSc (Econ) in Mathematical Logic and the Philosophy of Science at the London School of Economics in 1966.[1][2] He gained both the doctorate (PhD) in 1969, and higher doctorate (D.Sc.) in 1978, in the History of Science at the University of London. He was Emeritus Professor of the History of Mathematics and Logic at Middlesex University, and a Visiting Research Associate at the London School of Economics.

He was awarded the Kenneth O. May Medal for services to the History of Mathematics by the International Commission for the History of Mathematics (ICHM) on 31 July 2009, at Budapest, on the occasion of the 23rd International Congress for the History of Science. In 2010, he was elected an Honorary Member of the Bertrand Russell Society.

He spent much of his career at Middlesex University.[3] He was a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, and is a member of the Académie Internationale d'Histoire des Sciences.[citation needed]

Biographical details[edit]

From 1974 to 1981, he was editor of the history of science journal Annals of Science.[2] In 1979 he founded the journal History and Philosophy of Logic,[1] and edited it until 1992. He was an associate editor of Historia Mathematica for twenty years from its inception in 1974, and again from 1996.

He also acted as advisory editor to the editions of the writings of C.S. Peirce and Bertrand Russell, and to several other journals and book series. He was a member of the Executive Committee of the International Commission on the History of Mathematics from 1977 to 1993.

He gave over 570 invited lectures to organisations and societies, or to conferences and congresses, in over 20 countries around the world. These lectures include tours undertaken in Australia, New Zealand, Italy, South Africa and Portugal.

From 1986 to 1988, he was the President of the British Society for the History of Mathematics, and for 1992 the Vice-President. In 1991, he was elected an effective member of the Académie Internationale d'Histoire des Sciences. He was the Associate Editor for mathematicians and statisticians for the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004).

Grattan-Guinness took an interest in the phenomenon of coincidence and has written on it for The Society For Psychical Research. He claimed to have a rerurrent affinity with one particular number; the square of 15: 225, even recounting one occasion when a car was in front of him with the number plate IGG225, i.e. his very initials and that number. He died on 12 December 2014, aged 73.[4] He is survived by his wife Enid Grattan-Guinness.


The work of Grattan-Guinness touched on all historical periods, but he specialised in the development of the calculus and mathematical analysis, and their applications to mechanics and mathematical physics, and in the rise of set theory and mathematical logic.[citation needed] He was especially interested in characterising how past thinkers, far removed from us in time, view their findings differently from the way we see them now (for example, Euclid). He has emphasised the importance of ignorance as an epistemological notion in this task. He did extensive research with original sources both published and unpublished, thanks to his reading and spoken knowledge of the main European languages.

Selected publications[edit]

Books written[edit]


  • W.H. and G.C. Young, The theory of sets of points, 2nd edition (ed. with R.C.H. Tanner; 1972, New York: Chelsea). [Introduction and appendix.]
  • E.L. Post, ‘The modern paradoxes’, History and philosophy of logic, 11 (1990), 85–91.
  • Philip E. B. Jourdain, Selected essays on the history of set theory and logics (1906–1918) (1991, Bologna: CLUEB), xlii + 352 pages. [Introduction and indexes.]
  • George Boole, Selected manuscripts on logic and its philosophy (ed. with G. Bornet, 1997, Basel: Birkhäuser), lxvi + 236 pages.[Part Introduction and editorial material.]
  • Grattan-Guinness' The Search for Mathematical Roots 1870–1940 is a sweeping study of the rise of mathematical logic during that critical period. The central theme of the book is the rise of logicism, thanks to the efforts of Frege, Bertrand Russell, and Alfred Whitehead, and its demise due to Gödel and indifference. Whole chapters are devoted to the emergence of algebraic logic in the 19th century UK, Cantor and the emergence of set theory, the emergence of mathematical logic in Germany told in a way that downplays Frege's importance, and to Peano and his followers. There follow four chapters devoted to the ideas of the young Bertrand Russell, the writing of both The Principles of Mathematics and Principia Mathematica, and to the mixed reception the ideas and methods encountered over the period 1910–40. The book touches on the rise of model theory as well as proof theory, and on the emergence of American research on the foundation of mathematics, especially in the hands of E. H. Moore and his students, of the postulate theorists, and of Quine. While Polish logic is often mentioned, it is not covered systematically. Finally, the book is a contribution to the history of philosophy as well as of mathematics.

Books edited[edit]



External links[edit]