Ellen Abrams

Postdoctoral Fellow
Humanities Scholars Program
Cornell University


Ph.D., Cornell University, 2020
M.A., Cornell University, 2017
B.S., Northwestern University, 2011

I am a historian of mathematics who specializes in Science and Technology Studies and American cultural history. My current book project, Making Mathematics American, examines the intersection of gender, professionalization, and abstraction during the early-twentieth-century growth of mathematics in the United States. By examining the technical development of modern mathematics alongside popular, administrative, and biographical sources, I show that while the foundational definition of mathematics was at stake around the turn of the century, so too were conceptions of what counted as mathematical work, who counted as a mathematician, and how each was thought to contribute to American society. Making Mathematics American points to the simultaneous consolidation and constriction of the category “mathematician” during the early twentieth century. In my next project, I establish what is essentially an inverted counterpart to the first by examining the postwar expansion of the category “mathematician” and related attempts to diversify the mathematics profession during the Cold War.

Recent Publications
“An Inalienable Prerogative of a Liberated Spirit: Postulating American Mathematics.” British Journal for the History of Mathematics (2020): 1-21.
“‘Indebted to No One’: Grounding and Gendering the Self-Made Mathematician.” Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences 50, no. 3 (2020): 217-247.
British Society for the History of Mathematics Blog

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