Higher Dimensions

Reading from the studio, Jaques Ranciere, The Ignorant Schoolmaster led me to think about the difficulties that women faced to gain entry to further education in the past .Ranciere – The Ignorant Schoolmaster_ch_one

In the past, I studied and implemented the Montessori teaching method as an early childhood educator and a special needs assistant.

A site of ongoing interest for me in my studio practice has been the changing face of the former home of George Boole (1816-1864) the famous Logician and the first Professor of Mathematics in Queens College Cork (now UCC) at 5 Grenville Place.  Looking further into the Boole family history led me to discover his daughter Alicia Boole Stott (1860-1940), an Irish woman who made a significant contribution to the study of four-dimensional geometry without a University degree, as women could not apply for third level education at that time.

What particularly interested me was that she constructed three-dimensional sections of four-dimensional objects called polytopes and taught herself to “see” the fourth dimension, resulting in a series of Archimedean solids. This was a new method of visualising four-dimensional polytopes. A collection of her drawings was found as recently as 2001 in an old paper roll in the basement of the Mathematics, Astronomy and Physics Department of the University of Groningen.

POLO-BLANCO, I. Alicia Boole Stott, a geometer in higher dimension, ScienceDirect

Alicia was the only Boole sister to inherit her father’s mathematical talent, although her mother Mary Everest Boole had brought up all her five children from an early age to understand the flow of geometry by projecting shapes onto paper, hanging pendulums etc. She was first exposed to geometric models by her brother-in-law when she was just 18.

Boole Stotts first encounter with these models reminded me of my previous studies in Montessori Education; children are given geometric models and solid objects to touch and manipulate before moving on to writing or drawing geometric shapes. This is a classic example of the Montessori method of teaching from concrete to abstract.

Maria Montessori (1870-1952) was an Italian physician and educator who also faced challenges as a woman in the 1800’s. After initially being refused entry, Maria was eventually given entry to the University of Rome in 1890, becoming the first woman to enter medical school in Italy. Despite facing many obstacles due to her gender, Montessori qualified as a doctor in July of 1896. At the age of twenty-eight Montessori began advocating her controversial theory that the lack of support for mentally and developmentally disabled children was the cause of their delinquency. The notion of social reform became a strong theme throughout Maria’s life.

The Golden Beads, Montessori teaching apparatus

Alicia Boole Stott collaborated with the Groningen Professor of Geometry, Pieter Hendrik Schoute (1846-1913) for over twenty years and was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Groningen in 1914.

‘It is clear that Boole Stott developed a mental capacity to understand the fourth dimension in a way that differed considerably from the analytic approach of other geometers of the time, in particular that of Schoute.’ Taken from: Alicia Boole Stott, a geometer in higher dimension

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