#
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 (w^{3}=z). Gift of Frances E. Baker. |

"Women Mathematicians and NMAH Collections - Frances Baker: Daughter of a Mathematical Model Maker" showing 3 items.

## Model of a Riemann Surface by Richard P. Baker, Baker #411Z

- Description
- The mathematician R. P. Baker believed that models were essential for the teaching of mathematics. This model, which he constructed in about 1930, represents a Riemann surface defined by the equation
*w*^{3}=*z*, where the variables*w*and*z*represent complex numbers, i.e., numbers of the form*a*+*bi*where*i*is the square root of -1. Riemann surfaces are named after the 19th-century German mathematician, Bernhard Riemann. They are different from surfaces in three dimensions, such as spheres, that are defined by equations in three variables, all of which represent real numbers.

- Real and complex numbers behave differently. For example, any non-zero complex number has three distinct cube roots. For 1 the three cube roots are 1, (-1 + √3) / 2, and (-1 + √3
*i*) / 2 while for*i*the three cube roots are -*i*, (√3 +*i*) / 2, and (-√3 +*i*) / 2 .

- In this model, the bottom level represents the
*w*plane, a plane of complex numbers that is not part of the Riemann surface. That surface is represented by the other three levels and rectangles connecting them. There are three levels because there are three different values of*w*that produce the same value of*w*cubed. The coloring of the surfaces indicates the connections between the values of*w*on the bottom level and the points that satisfy the equation*w*^{3}=z on the surface.

- Location
- Currently not on view

- maker
- Baker, Richard P.

- ID Number
- MA*211257.074

- accession number
- 211257

- catalog number
- 211257.074

- Data Source
- National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

## Academic Hood of Frances Ellen Baker

- Description
- 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.

- Location
- Currently not on view

- date made
- 1934

- date used
- 1934

- user
- Baker, Frances E.

- ID Number
- 1985.0820.03

- accession number
- 1985.0820

- catalog number
- 1985.0820.03

- Data Source
- National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

## Academic Hood of Richard P. Baker

- Description
- This hood belonged to to Richard Philip Baker (1866–1937) who received his PhD in mathematics from the University of Chicago in 1910. 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 (1985.0820.03) was acquired by Baker’s daughter, Frances Ellen Baker (1902–1995), when she was awarded a PhD in mathematics from Chicago in 1934.

- R. P. Baker’s doctoral dissertation,
*The Problem of the Angle-Bisectors*(1985.3145.01), was directed by E. H. Moore, while his daughter Frances’s doctoral dissertation,*A Contribution to the Waring Problem for Cubic Functions*, was directed by L. E. Dickson, E. H. Moore’s first doctoral student. R. P. Baker’s younger daughter, Gladys Elizabeth Baker (1908-2007) earned a doctorate, in botany and mycology from Washington University in St. Louis in 1935.

- R. P. Baker is best known in the mathematical community for constructing mathematical models that he believed were necessary for the proper teaching of geometry. His 1931 catalog offered several hundred models. Several museum accessions include models made by Baker. See MA*211257.04 for a description of one of these models.

- Location
- Currently not on view

- date made
- 1910

- date used
- 1910

- user
- Baker, Richard P.

- ID Number
- 1985.0820.02

- accession number
- 1985.0820

- catalog number
- 1985.0820.02

- Data Source
- National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center