By Martha McMackin Garland

During this significant contribution to the highbrow background of Cambridge college, Dr Garland takes as her major subject the increase of a selected academic perfect in early Victorian Cambridge, the way it loved a second of triumph, after which the way it fell lower than the impression of a brand new set of demanding situations. the tale revolves round the careers of a gaggle of 'conservative reformers', led by way of the Trinity dons Whewell and Sedgwick. They have been the self-designated prone of a refurbished model of conventional Cambridge values within the new surroundings of a swiftly industrializing England, and took as their perfect a basic unified middle of information established upon arithmetic, classics and ethical philosophy. They needed to hold this common constitution simply because they believed it corresponded to the constitution of the human brain and its psychological colleges. For them, trust within the concord of technology and faith was once half and parcel in their primarily huge Church non secular perspectives.

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It is not surprising that many of the improvements and reforms which the University undertook during the first half of the century were related to mathematics. Change began as early as the second decade of the century with the arrival at the University of a group of very talented under­ graduate mathematicians. They included Charles Babbage, John Herschel, William Whewell, George Peacock, and - slightly later George Biddle Airy and Augustus DeMorgan. The first four, particu­ larly Herschel, Babbage and Peacock, had been interested in mathematics at a rather sophisticated level before they ever came up 28 MathematiCs - the core of 'permanent studies' to Cambridge and had read widely and intensively in a number of contemporary mathematical works.

In an 1 865 letter to John Stuart Mill, De­ Morgan assessed Peacock's achievements thus : You are perhaps aware that Peacock published two works on algebra. The first, in one volume, is that which treats the subject most generally. He is in full possession of all except what relates to the exponent . . Peacock had very nearly attained the idea of algebra as a formal science, in which every result of the form is to have meaning. His permanence of equivalent forms would have developed itself into formal algebra capable of any number of material applications, if he had been a logician I mean a student oflogic.

In 1 841 when he was on the point of leaving Cam­ bridge for a more concentrated life of scholarship - perhaps in a country parish - Whewell was appointed by Sir Robert Peel to the mastership of Trinity College. This position was an ideal one : it made it possible for him to marry and still remain at Cambridge. It gave him a comfortable, influential position within the College. And it made him, as one of the 'Heads', one of the natural leaders of the whole university community. As Master of Trinity he spent the last twenty-four years of his life making significant contributions to critical scholarship and to moderate university reform.

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