I’m Isobel Falconer, and I’m a historian of mathematics and physics at St Andrews University. I am especially interested in the relations between maths and physics in the nineteenth century, and the interaction of both with the cultural context. I’ve recently been exploring some of these as cases of epistemic injustice. Many of my project and MLitt students work on topics in Scottish mathematics. I encourage undergraduate research: two current projects are particularly interesting. The first, a collaborative project with half a dozen undergraduate research interns traces the social backgrounds and careers of early female maths students at St Andrews around 1900. The second, with Beth Barlow, an undergraduate Laidlaw Scholar, is establishing a corpus of accounts by ordinary people in the past of how they experienced mathematical ideas, what their reactions were, and how they used them. The data will be made available in rdf form for linkage.

Much of my earlier work builds on my time as curator of the museum at the Cavendish Laboratory. I’ve published extensively on J.J. Thomson and the discovery of the electron, recently on James Clerk Maxwell, and also on Poynting, Faraday, Cavendish and Coulomb. Over the last few years I have been scoping and advising Lord Rayleigh on cataloguing and preservation of the Rayleigh archives. I am currently investigating the history of curve plotting as the interface between mathematics and science, with an particular focus on the work of James David Forbes. I serve on the Council of the British Society for the History of Mathematics, for whom I am web officer and book reviews editor. I am a Research Associate of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, and was for five years editor of the British Society for the History of Science’s Education Newsletter.

I used to juggle history of mathematics and science with consultancy and a lectureship in learning technology, at Glasgow Caledonian University. I am committed to open education both in research and practice.  My research interests are in open educational practices, and in representation of teaching practice. I was an expert advisor on the OECD-CERI project on Open Educational Resources. In 2014 I led GCU’s successful bid on the  EC-funded ExplOERer project. In 2012-13 I led the EC-funded OER4Adults project, which broke new ground in looking at the experiences of those providing open educational resources for adults in non-formal as well as formal settings. Previously I was a member of the JISC-funded Open Educational Resources Evaluation and Synthesis team, a consultant on the NTFS-funded SHARE project, and co-investigator on the Mod4L project which investigated representational models of teaching practice.

I am an Associate Lecturer with the UK Open University, teaching the History MA (A825 & A826). I was a member of Council (2010-2014) and Senate (2005-2014), the University’s top governing bodies. From 2007-2010 I was Chair of the Associate Lecturers Committee, responsible for the work of 150 representatives who feed their knowledge of teaching and OU students into the University’s governance committees.  In April 2006 I received two Open University teaching awards for exploring and supporting innovative ways of meeting a diversity of student needs; and my contribution to the SOS team which provides professional development and seeds communities of practice for tutors focussed around using distance technologies in learning and teaching.

I live in Fife (UK) with Ken, Ben and Jennifer. I was a parent member of Madras College School Board for four years and set up the school board website. I used to run a highly successful science club at Lawhead Primary School which won the International Lunch Box Derby in Washington in 1999 and were runners up in New York in 2000, based on my experience working at a pioneering hands on science centre, The Exploratory, in Bristol.

History of science/maths publications
Teaching and learning publications


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