Event will honor suffragist and mathematician James Oliver

The life and work of James Edward Oliver, a passionate supporter of women’s suffrage and a nationally recognized mathematician, will be celebrated in an evening of talks on Oct. 14.


Laurent Saloff-Coste, the Abram R. Bullis Professor of Mathematics in College of Arts and Sciences (A&S); Carol Kammen, Tompkins County Historian and retired Cornell professor of history (A&S); and retired University Archivist Elaine Engst will discuss topics ranging from Oliver’s role in local politics and society to the the early days of Cornell’s Department of Mathematics. The event will begin at 7 p.m in the Malott Hall Faculty Lounge, MLT 532. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, in-person attendance is limited to the Cornell community; the public is invited to join via Zoom.

Chair of the Department of Mathematics from 1871 until his death in 1895, Oliver was more than a renowned mathematician and teacher, say the event speakers: he was also a far-sighted and morally engaged thinker and citizen. They note that Oliver introduced Susan B. Anthony at the Tompkins County Political Equality Convention in 1894 and taught a popular class in ethics at the Unitarian Church in Ithaca. At Cornell, he helped found the Social Science Club and belonged to the University Ethical Association.

Following the talks, at 8:00 pm a plaque to honor Oliver’s contributions to women’s equality will be unveiled in the Math Library, where his portrait is located. A catered reception on the lawn behind the A.D. White House will follow for attendees from the Cornell community.