Collected Curiosities: Darwin, Banksy, Tstar Nicholas II, etc

 Darwin said that men endowed with mathematical talent “seem to have an extra sense” (Lecture at the Fields Institute)
Banksy trouble:
According to a group of my friends I was the last person (if not on the entire Earth, than in North America:)) who did not know the name of a graffiti artist Banksy. When they told me that he is famous for hiding his identity I asked why he does that and if anyone asks him to reveal his identity.  Asking that was a big mistake.  Not only my friends got upset, but I also did not get the answer to my question.  If there is anyone else who did not know about Banksy, here is his website
Tango was brought to Paris in the 1910’s by rich Argentinian young men who toured Europe and actively participated in Paris’ night life. Soon tango became so popular that there were tango lectures, tea parties, exhibitions, etc. (Tango! : the dance, the song, the story by Collier)
Stravinsky wrote the first act of “Petrushka” ballet in an attic of a small house near a hospital where his wife was placed before the birth of their son. (Stravinsky by B. Yarustovsky)
Russian tsar Nicolas II likely was the first monarch who saw tango being danced. He even liked it! (Tango! : the dance, the song, the story by Collier)
Apparently soap is the most recommended souvenir to buy in Marselles, France. (internet)
Robert Hooke convinced his contemporaries that ‘minute bodies’ (very small organisms and very small things in general) are capable of having complex structure.  In his book Micrographia (1665) he illustrated that a flies have 360 degree field of vision as well as many other intricacies of small organisms and plants. His work was especially impressive because before the seventeenth century smallness was considered an obstacle to having a complex structure. (Micrographia by Robert Hooke)

“You study math and what…???” – How math and history majors merged into one

As a student of the Concurrent Teacher Education Program I knew that eventually I will need to have two teachable subjects. Despite of all difficulties I really enjoyed my math classes and I did not even think of studying anything else. By the end of the second year I had a lot of math courses under my belt but my academic adviser kept reminding me that I need to choose the second teachable. Since I was interested in history before it seemed like a natural choice. I chose to complete a double major (Major of Mathematics and Major of History). I did not choose to complete the specialist because it contained many computer science courses and computer science was not my primary interest at that time.

Having such a combination of majors made me the “laugh of the town” among my friends for some time but I was confident in my choices. Turned out that this combination of academic interests was an asset for me while applying to the History of Science graduate program later.

first posted at

How I got into a Teacher Education program

As a child I always had many hobbies at the same time. I played piano, read historical novels, studied English and was enrolled in a dance school. As a result my career preferences tended to change every several years. I remember wanting to be a teacher, a paramedic, a geneticist, a historian, a psychiatrist…

In elementary school I often struggled with mathematics but I always enjoyed studying it. I never considered it as a possible career choice or a university program possibility until my senior years of high school. I realized that mathematics can be applied to many situations in the real world and that attracted me to the discipline even more. I always looked at math from the point of view of an observer. The historical aspects of it fascinated me. To me, mathematical progress reflects the evolution of human thinking and of our vision of the world.  During my high school years I was also heavily involved with the math club, the peer tutoring club and the early child education centre, so applying my love for mathematics to teaching seemed like a logical choice. I joined the Concurrent Teacher Education Program to get a degree in math simultaneously with a teaching degree.

image from

first published at

How I ended up in Grad School

This post was written a little over a year ago (in 2012) and was posted first at

This is how I ended up in a PhD program for History of Mathematics

My name is Mariya. I have just graduated from UofT majoring in Mathematics, History and        Eduation (Concurrent Teacher Education Program). I was born in Ukraine and came to Canada at the  lucky age of 13. The most important aspect of university life for me is balancing academic and social  activities. In my second year I got involved with the Mathematics and Computational Science Society   at UTM and stayed there as the VP of Advertising for three academic years. During that time I  learned   a lot about the academic culture of UofT. I met many academic celebrities and learned to communicate with a variety of people. Last summer I was a blog contributor for the Fields-MITACS program. Interviewing international undergraduate research assistants and writing about their achievements gave me an opportunity to learn culture-specific approaches to mathematics. I was always interested in the cultural aspects of sciences and scientific journalism but was never sure how to apply my interests to a possible career until I was told about the History of Science graduate program at UofT. Last year I took a history of mathematics course and finalized my decision about joining the History of Mathematics doctoral stream.

image from