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Connecticut professor to speak on contributions of 18th-century mathematician

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – The year 2007 marks the 300th anniversary of the birth of Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler, and one of his modern-day admirers is doing what he can to keep Euler’s memory fresh.

“Some people are more famous now than when they were alive – Bach comes to mind,” said Ed Sandifer, who will be speaking at both Bethel College and McPherson College later this month. “Some were famous for a while, but their fame faded. Leonhard Euler, the greatest scientist and mathematician of the 18th century, has been famous among mathematicians and scientists more or less continuously since 1735, but the reasons for his fame have changed.”

Sandifer, professor of mathematics at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury, will speak Monday, Oct. 22, in Bethel College convocation and that evening at McPherson College. The Bethel event is at 11 a.m. in Krehbiel Auditorium of the Fine Arts Center. The McPherson lecture is at 7 p.m. in Melhorn Hall Room 112 and is sponsored by the mathematical sciences departments of the Associated Colleges of Central Kansas (ACCK). Both events are free and open to the public.

Both lectures will focus on Euler’s importance in the history of mathematics, with the convocation address more geared to a general audience and the evening lecture aimed more at the serious mathematician.

Sandifer has a B.A. from Dartmouth College and an M.A. in mathematics from the University of Massachusetts, where he also earned his Ph.D. in ring theory. He is secretary of the Euler Society, writes a regular column called “How Euler Did It” for the Mathematical Association of America’s Web site, and is one of the founders and the executive officer for the Euler Project, intended to translate papers and passages from longer Euler works that could be useful in teaching graduate and undergraduate mathematics.

Sandifer has taught at WCSU since 1980. When he’s not teaching or writing about Euler, he enjoys distance running and has run in 35 Boston Marathons.

One of Sandifer’s major teaching loves is math history. A recent article from the Connecticut State University system Web site notes that Sandifer “has a proven formula for his students: Mathematics plus history equals appreciation.”

“Math history can make math more enjoyable and easier to understand for the students,” Sandifer said. “It also helps students who may not be able to relate to the subject of math. For example, some Latino students feel disconnected [from] math, but we can help make the connection by teaching about Spanish-colonial math and pointing to facts such as [there being] 11 math books published in Spanish in the New World before there were any in English.”

When Sandifer began studying math history in earnest, he found that he felt the best connection to Leonhard Euler. “He enjoyed math like I do,” Sandifer said. “A lot of people polish the happiness off math, but Euler left the happiness in. He published [more than] 800 articles and books, covering a broad spectrum from astronomy to physics to math.”

Sandifer will speak on “The Story of the Euler Story” at Bethel College and on “A Tale of Two Gammas” at McPherson College. For more information, contact Richard Rempel at Bethel College, 316-284-5294,

Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Founded in 1887, it is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and was the highest ranked Kansas college in the national liberal arts category of U.S. News & World Report’s listing of “America’s Best Colleges” for 2008. For more information, see the Bethel Web site at

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