Agnes Scott College

Anne Lucy Bosworth Focke

Anne Bosworth Focke

September 29, 1868 - May 15, 1907

Contributed by Sarina Wyant, University of Rhode Island Special Collections and Archives

Now that emphasis is being placed on eliminating the gender gap in the disciplines of mathematics and science, it is interesting to note that the URI Math Department can boast of having a woman as its founder. For a project on American women in mathematics, Jeanne LaDuke wrote us in June of 2005 requesting information about Anne Lucy Bosworth. I had remembered the name "Lucy Bosworth" from a striking image of a young woman and the accompanying dedication found in the 1898 student yearbook, The Grist: "To Miss Bosworth, our professor and classmate, we, who honor her ability and value her friendship, respectfully dedicate this volume." What we then discovered was commiserate with the estimation that her students had for her. Anne Bosworth was born in Woonsocket, Rhode Island. She received her B.S. from Wellesley College in 1890. From 1890- March 1892, she was First Assistant at the Amesbury High School in Massachusetts. Bosworth was hired by Rhode Island State College (now URI) on March 23, 1892 for a one year appointment as math instructor. By April, she was appointed as the College's first Professor of Mathematics and Physics. Immediately upon her arrival at the College, Bosworth rolled up her sleeves: She developed a multi-disciplinary curriculum, the math book collection, and taught courses in algebra, geometry, calculus, various courses in physics, and "this still mysterious force" electricity. (Annual Report, 1892). By 1894, she managed a department of two: Professor Drake was hired to teach the Physics courses and a Mr. Lane taught surveying, descriptive geometry, and freshman algebra. In the summers of 1894 and 1896 Bosworth, attended the University of Chicago and received her Master's Degree in 1896. In 1899, she took a leave of absence to study at the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen in Germany from which she received her Ph.D. in 1900. She was David Hilbert's first female Ph.D. student. Her dissertation was entitled "Begründung einer vom Parallelenaziome unabhängigen Streckenrechnung."

Bosworth married Theodore Focke in 1901. The couple moved to Cleveland where, according to LaDuke, he had a position at the Case Institute of Technology. They had their first of three children, Helen, June 10, 1902, the same month and year her resignation from the College became effective. Like so many women of her day, it appears that she left her position at the College to marry. (The year Miss Bosworth was hired, President Washburn lamented the loss of the drawing instructor, a Miss Wells, when she married L. F. Kinney). Washburn wrote in the 1902 Annual Report: "It is with regret that the institution loses Miss Bosworth from the faculty. Her conscientious work has been, from the beginning, highly appreciated by every member of the institution." Laurence Hewes (Ph.D.,Yale) was appointed to replace her.

Anne Lucy Bosworth Focke died in 1907 of pneumonia.

Much of the research for this story was conducted by GSLIS graduate student, Emily Brown, and was taken from the Annual Reports of the Corporation, Board of Managers, of the R.I. College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, 1892-1902.


  1. Helen Brewster Owens Papers. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe College.
  2. Mathematics Genealogy Project

Photo Credit: Photograph is used with the permission of the University of Rhode Island Special Collections and Archives