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Scott, Charlotte Angas (1858–1931)

Scott, Charlotte Angas (1858–1931)

English mathematician and educator. Born Charlotte Angas Scott on June 8, 1858, in Lincoln, England; died on November 8, 1931, in Cambridge, England; daughter of Caleb Scott (an educator and minister) and Eliza Ann Exley Scott; received private primary and secondary education; Girton College of Cambridge University, honors degree, 1880; University of London, B.S., 1882, D.Sc., 1885.

Charlotte Angas Scott was born in 1858 in Lincoln, England. Her parents instilled in her a love of learning through a private education, and she entered Girton College of Cambridge University in 1876. Even though women could not receive Cambridge degrees, they could take final examinations on an informal basis. Scott finished in eighth place in the mathematics tests in 1880, the highest score recorded for a woman. However, her score was not included at commencement, and she was not allowed to attend the ceremony, although she received an honors degree from Girton. Scott lectured in math at Girton from 1880 to 1884 while studying at the University of London. She earned a B.S. in 1882 and a D.Sc. in 1885.

Soon after she graduated, Scott became the only woman of six faculty members at the newly formed Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania. She created the undergraduate and graduate mathematics programs and was known for her ability to make her subject understandable and exciting. She wrote An Introductory Account of Certain Modern Ideas in Plane Analytical Geometry (1894), which became the standard textbook for colleges in the United States and Europe, and Cartesian Plane Geometry Part I: Analytical Cones (1907). She was also editor of the American version of Arithmetic for Schools. These texts stood as the primary learning references for an entire generation of students.

Scott was active in the mathematics field outside of Bryn Mawr, including membership in the New York Mathematical Society, which became the American Mathematical Society in 1894. Scott was the only woman to serve on its board of directors. She served as its vice president in 1906 and contributed 30 articles and papers to the society's journal as well as to other publications in the United States, Britain and Europe. She also contributed to the creation of the College Entrance Examination Board in 1901, and served as its chief examiner in mathematics from 1902 to 1903.

Before Scott retired in 1924 from Bryn Mawr College, she received the first endowed chair in 1909. In 1922, 140 members of the American Mathematical Society and former students returned to the college to honor Scott for her lifetime of achievements in mathematics and education. She returned to England in 1925 and died six years later in Cambridge.


James, Edward T., ed. Notable American Women, 1607–1950. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University, 1971.

Ogilvie, Marilyn Bailey. Women in Science: Antiquity through the Nineteenth Century. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1986.

Osen, Lynn M. Women in Mathematics. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1974.

Read, Phyllis J., and Bernard L. Witlieb. The Book of Women's Firsts. NY: Random House, 1992.

Sally Cole-Misch , freelance writer, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan

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