Mr Hopkins’ Men. Cambridge Reform and British Mathematics in the 19th Century
This book gives a fascinating view of Cambridge University during the Victorian era. It is divided into two parts. The first part “Educating the Elite” describes the system of education in Cambridge, its dramatic changes in the 19th century and its role in the development of the mathematical sciences in Britain. The author describes the evolution of curricula and reforms leading to Cambridge's dominance of British higher education. The Cambridge reforms are analysed in a comprehensive context (the role of political decisions, the influence of the church and parliament, the development of the town and colleges in Cambridge, life at the university, social interest in higher education and scientific work, and so on). A detailed biography of William Hopkins, the most remarkable tutor in Cambridge in the mid-19th century, and an appreciation of his mathematical achievements have been created with the help of a study of archival sources. Brief biographies of Hopkins' top students from 1829 up to 1854 are added at the end of the first part. Pencil and watercolour portraits of top students from Hopkins' own collection (attributed to the artist T. C. Wageman, who created them between 1829 and 1852) are published here for the first time.
The second part “Careers of the Wrangles” is devoted to a description of the careers of some top students and graduates (so-called Wrangles) including many famous scientists and mathematicians, professors at English and Scottish universities and colleges, first professors in Australia, official educators overseas and throughout the colonies, tutors of prominent people (for example an Indian maharajah), churchmen, etc. Detailed biographies of four excellent scientists (G. Green, J. C. Adams, G. G. Stokes and H. Goodwin) are included. At the end of the second part, the author describes the transformation of Cambridge from an unimportant institution into a world centre for mathematical and physical sciences and education. Various topics are discussed (growth of a research community, the birth of journals, the development of scientific institutions, the analysis of achievements in mathematical sciences before 1830 and then from 1830 up to 1880).
The book can be recommended to people who are interested in the history of Victorian Britain in general and in the history of Cambridge University, mathematical education, mathematics, and scientific life and work, as well as the connections of science and religious belief, politics, etc.