Women Mathematicians and NMAH CollectionsFrances Baker: Daughter of a Mathematical Model Maker
|Image of Frances Baker, ca 1957. Gift of Frances E. Baker. (2006.3037.02)
Frances Ellen Baker (1902–1995) is one of many women mathematicians who had a close relative who was also a mathematician. Her father was the England-born mathematician Richard Philip Baker, who is best known in the mathematical community for constructing mathematical models. Frances Baker spent most of her career teaching at women’s colleges, Mount Holyoke and Vassar. She was particularly involved with honor students, both by directing honor’s papers and through local chapters of the honor societies Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Xi.
Questionnaires for both Bakers are preserved in the collection honoring American women in mathematics. In addition, the mathematics collections also include several objects donated by Frances Baker. Among these are the two doctoral hoods from the University of Chicago that she and her father received when they were awarded their PhD’s and a large number of mathematical models constructed by her father.
|Riemann Surface. R. P. Baker Model #411z (w3=z). Gift of Frances E. Baker.|
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- This hood belonged to Frances Ellen Baker (1902–1995), who received her PhD in mathematics from the University of Chicago in 1934. The color of the velvet on the hood represents the type of doctorate awarded, with dark blue used for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. The color of the reverse (interior) side of the hood, maroon, represents the school that awarded the degree, i.e., the University of Chicago whose colors are maroon and white. A matching hood (1985.0820.02) was awarded to Baker’s father, Richard Philip Baker (1866-1937), when he received his PhD in mathematics from Chicago in 1910.
- Frances Baker’s PhD dissertation, A Contribution to the Waring Problem for Cubic Functions, was directed by L. E. Dickson, the first doctoral student of E. H. Moore, who directed her father’s PhD dissertation, The Problem of the Angle-Bisectors (1985.3145.01). Her younger sister, Gladys Elizabeth Baker (1908–2007) earned a doctorate in botany and mycology from Washington University in St. Louis in 1935.
- Frances Baker spent most of her career, 1942–68, teaching mathematics at Vassar College. She came to Vassar two years after her sister Gladys arrived there to teach botany. There Frances Baker directed several honors papers and served as an officer of the local chapters of the academic honor society, Phi Beta Kappa, and the science honor society, Sigma Xi.
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- Baker, Frances E.
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- National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center