Carl Benjamin Boyer

Carl Benjamin Boyer (November 3, 1906 – April 26, 1976) was an American historian of sciences, and especially mathematics. Novelist David Foster Wallace called him the "Gibbon of math history".[2] It has been written that he was one of few historians of mathematics of his time to "keep open links with contemporary history of science."[3]

Carl Benjamin Boyer
Born(1906-11-03)November 3, 1906
DiedApril 26, 1976(1976-04-26) (aged 69)
NationalityUnited States
OccupationHistorian of mathematics

Life and career

Boyer was valedictorian of his high school class. He received a B.A. from Columbia College in 1928 and an M.A. in 1929. He received his Ph.D. in Mathematics from Columbia University in 1939.[1] He was a full professor of Mathematics at the City University of New York's Brooklyn College from 1952 until his death, although he had begun tutoring and teaching at Brooklyn College in 1928.[1]

Along with Carolyn Eisele of CUNY's Hunter College; C. Doris Hellman of the Pratt Institute, and later CUNY's Queens College; and Lynn Thorndike of Columbia University, Boyer was instrumental in the 1953 founding of the Metropolitan New York Section of the History of Science Society.[4]

In 1954, Boyer was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship to further his work in the history of science. In particular, the grant made reference to "the history of the theory of the rainbow".[5]

Boyer wrote the books The History of the Calculus and Its Conceptual Development (1959),[6] originally published as The Concepts of the Calculus (1939),[7] History of Analytic Geometry (1956),[8] The Rainbow: From Myth to Mathematics (1959),[9] and A History of Mathematics (1968).[10] He served as book-review editor of Scripta Mathematica.[11]

Boyer died of a heart attack in New York City in 1976.

In 1978, Boyer's widow, the former Marjorie Duncan Nice, a professor of history,[12] established the Carl B. Boyer Memorial Prize, to be awarded annually to a Columbia University undergraduate for the best essay on a scientific or mathematical topic.[13]



  1. Dauben, Joseph Warren and Scriba, Christoph J. (2002) Writing the history of mathematics: its historical development, Birkhäuser. Cf. pp.380-381 for the biography of Boyer.
  2. Wallace, David Foster. "An excerpt from Everything and More". Retrieved 2007-08-28.
  3. Gray, Jeremy (2016) "Histories of Modern Mathematics in English in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s" in Remmert, Volker R.; Schneider, Martina; and Kragh Sørensen, Henrik (eds.) Historiography of Mathematics in the 19th and 20th Centuries Birkhäuser. p.161. ISBN 9783319396491
  4. Gleason, Mary Louise (1999) "The Metropolitan New York Section of the History of Science Society", Isis, Vol. 90, Supplement: Catching up with the Vision: Essays on the Occasion of the 75th Anniversary of the Founding of the History of Science Society, pp. S200-S218. University of Chicago Press on behalf of The History of Science Society
  5. Staff (May 3, 1954) "Guggenheim Fund Grants $1,000,000" The New York Times
  6. OCLC=916224186
  7. Library of Congress Online Catalog, BIBLD=8312338
  8. Library of Congress Online Catalog, BIBLD=7462342
  9. Library of Congress Online Catalog, BIBLD=3111320
  10. Library of Congress Online Catalog, BIBLD=3121041
  11. Scripta Mathematica. Retrieved 2007-10-21.
  12. Unknown (March 21, 2010) "Marjorie Boyer" (paid obituary), The New York Times
  13. "Columbia College Bulletin:Prizes and Fellowships". Retrieved 2009-02-20.

Further reading

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