Undergraduate Essay Prize

Undergraduate Essay Prize

The British Society for the History of Mathematics is pleased to launch its famous undergraduate essay prize in the history of mathematics for 2023-2024. 

The essay should be written on any aspect from the history of mathematics, in any historical or geographical region. The competition is open to undergraduate or taught masters students at any university in the UK or the Republic of Ireland during the 2023-24 academic year. Research students are not eligible. If you have any queries about your eligibility, please contact Dr Ciarán Mac an Bhaird, BSHM Education Officer (ciaran.macanbhaird@bshm.ac.uk).

The absolute maximum length for submissions is 3000 words (excluding references), and previous winners or runners up of the undergraduate prize cannot submit another entry.

The award for the best essay is £150 and the winning entry will be considered for publication in our journal, The British Journal for the History of Mathematics. There will be as many run-up prizes awarded as we find appropriate (£50 each).  

The winner and runners-up will also benefit from free BSHM subscription for a year.  

Submit your entry here.

Deadline is 28th June 2024, midnight.  We look forward to reading your submissions!

Previous winners

2022/23: Eleanor Brittain, University of Cambridge, ‘Wh.1754: The Crossing of Mathematics, Religion and Art’.  

2022/23 Runner-up: James Hayes, University of Galway, ‘Hilbert's Space: How David Hilbert's Mentorship Shaped Mathematics’.

2022/23 Runner-up: Felix Lindsay-Smith, University of Lincoln, ‘A preliminary investigation regarding the obscurity of Omar Khayyam's method of computing cubic roots’.

2021/22: Zakkai Goriely, Oxford University, 'British Mathematical Reformers in the Nineteenth Century: Motivations and Methods'. 

2021/22 Runner-up: Ffinlo Wright, University of St Andrews, 'A Turning Point for Game Theory: Situating John F. Nash in the History of Economic Thought'. 

2020/21: Ellen Flower, Oxford University, The ‘analysis’ of a century: Influences on the etymological development of the word 'analysis' in a mathematical context to 1750.

2020/21: George Waters, London School of Economics, Exploring the use of mathematics to obtain consensus

2020/2021 runner up: Aoife Kearins, Trinity College Dublin, Proofs, Partnerships and the Penny Post: How the Development of the U.K. Postal Service Made Mathematics Collaborative.

2019/20: Quantifying the unquantifiable: the role of mathematicisation of philosophy during seventeenth century Scotland, by Natasha Bailie, Queen's University, Belfast 

2019/2020 runners up: Emma Lepinay, University of Oxford: Treatise of Algebra: John Wallis’ journey towards understanding complex numbers.

Molly Chung, University of St Andrews: The effects of rivalry on mathematical development in Europe.

Arman Jena, London School of Economics: The 20th century development of Linear Programming in USA and USSR

Sasha Ramani, University of York: Deep rooted evidence of the use of mathematical principles in music.

We did not award the prize in 2018-19.

The winner of the 2017-18 Essay Prize was Kamilla Rekvenyi of the University of St Andrews, for her essay, Paul Erdös’ Mathematics as a Social Activity. Kamilla was awarded her prize at the BSHM Meeting at Gresham College on 24th October, at 4pm. Her paper was subsequently published in the British Journal for the History of Mathematics, and can be seen here https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/26375451.2019.159303.

2016/17: Eli Hymson of the University of Exeter for an essay entitled The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Foundationless Mathematics. The judging panel also highly commended  entries by Siddhi Doshi (essay title: The evolution of the game theory as a foundation in economic analysis) and Stefan Kitic (essay title: What is “money” and does its use require “mathematics”?)  of the London School of Economics.

2015/16: Michael Seal (London School of Economics), 'Was there a Revolution in Analysis in the Early 19th Century?' and Brigitte Stenhouse (University of Oxford), 'How Financial Instability Influenced the Mathematical Publications of Mary Somerville'.

2014/15: Edwin Reynolds (University of Oxford), ‘To What Extent Were the Contributions of Cauchy to the Development of Rigour in Analysis Influenced by Those of Lagrange?'

2013/14: Remus Stana (University of Glasgow), 'Mathematics in Nazi Germany' .

2012/13: Ryan Stanley (University of Exeter), 'Dedekind, Cantor and the rigour of calculus' .

2011/12: Stephanie Crampin (University of Oxford), 'The contribution of Évariste Galois to the founding of group theory' and Nicole Johannesen (University of St Andrews), 'The application of mathematical understanding in the ancient Olympic Games'.