Agnes Scott College

Elizabeth Cooper

January 19, 1891 - May 17, 1967

Elizabeth Morgan Cooper was born in Syracuse, New York, in 1891, the oldest child of Henry Cooper and Jessie Bagg. She graduated from Radcliffe College in 1913 with an A.B., magna cum laude, in mathematics. She taught at the Baldwin School for girls from 1913 to 1927. During this time she continued graduate work in mathematics at Bryn Mawr college, receiving her masters degree in 1923. She read mathematics at Newnham College in Cambridge during the 1924-1925 academic year through a Radcliffe Fellowship. She continued her studies at Radcliffe for one year after leaving the Baldwin School, then went to the University of Illinois in 1928. There she earned her Ph.D. in 1930 with a thesis on "Perspective Elliptic Curves" written under the supervision of Arthur Coble. This was published in the American Journal of Mathematics, Vol. 53 (1931) [Abstract].

Cooper was the principal of the Buckingham School for girls in Cambridge, MA, from 1930 to 1935 before becoming the supervisor of mathematics and teacher training at Hunter College in New York City. She also served as chairman of the mathematics department at Hunter College High School in 1937. She returned to Syracuse in 1957 where she taught undergraduate mathematics at the University of Syracuse and participated in teacher training seminars.

Cooper was a highly acclaimed teacher. Her philosophy of teaching mathematics centered on student participation and discovery. She wrote an unpublished algebra text called "Letters to Anne" containing letters written to the young Anne explaining and teaching algebra from an informal point of view. She believed that "to attempt, unaided, a proof or a problem may be better preparation for later proofs and problems than merely to play an attentive part in the class development of the problem," and that one should give "lessons in which skillful teacher questions make the student do the thinking, so that all the new ideas have been actually expressed by them, the chief words of the teacher in the new field being 'What?', 'How?', and 'Why?'"


  1. Mary Elizabeth Williams Papers. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe College
  2. Helen Brewster Owens Papers. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe College.
  3. Mathematics Genealogy Project
  4. Author Profile at zbMath