Agnes Scott College

Isabel Maddison

April 12, 1869 - October 22, 1950

Isabel Maddison was born in Cumberland, England. She attended the University College of South Wales in Monmouthshire from 1885-1889, then studied at Girton College, Cambridge University from 1889-1892. In 1892 she passed the Cambridge Tripos examination in mathematics, first class, but was not allowed to receive a degree from Cambridge. She was granted a B.S. degree with honors from the University of London. She came to the United States to do graduate work at Bryn Mawr College and received her Ph.D. from Bryn Mawr in 1896 under the direction of Charlotte Scott. Her thesis was on "Singular solutions of differential equations of the first order in two variables and the geometric properties of certain invariants and covariants of their complete primitives." This was published in the Quarterly Journal of Pure and Applied Mathematics, vol 28 (1896), pages 311-374 [Abstract]. During her graduate studies she became the first student to win the Mary E. Garrett Fellowship from Bryn Mawr for study abroad, which she used to study at the University of Gottingen in 1894-95. There she attended lectures of Felix Klein and David Hilbert.

She remained at Bryn Mawr for the rest of her professional life. From 1896 to 1904 she served as secretary to President M. Carey Thomas and as a Reader in mathematics. In 1905 she was award a B.A. degree from Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland, based primarily on her work at Cambridge University. At the same time she became Assistant to the President and Associate in mathematics at Bryn Mawr. In 1910 she was appointed Recording Dean of the college. She served in these various capacities until her retirement in 1926.

Maddison was a member of the London Mathematical Society and the American Mathematical Society. She published a paper "On certain factors of c- and p- discriminants and their relations to fixed points in the family of curves" in the Quarterly Journal of Pure and Applied Mathematics in 1893. In 1896 she published in the Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society a translation of Felix Klein's address before the Royal Academy of Science at Gottingen on "The arithmetizing of mathematics." The following year she also published in the Bulletin a "Note on the History of the Map Coloring Problem" (Article). Her other publications consisted of textbook reviews, handbooks of courses open to women in British, Continental and Canadian universities, and an appreciation of Charlotte Scott for the January, 1932, Bryn Mawr Alumnae Bulletin.

Mary Williams writes in her notes about Isabel Maddison:

During the summers of 1916 and 1917 she was very active in defense work. When the armistice was announced in November, 1918, classes were dismissed at Bryn Mawr and according to Cornilia Meigs, "Isabel Maddison, assistant to the President, heretofore always moving in unimpeachably correct British dignity, dashed up the tower stairs and rang Taylor bell with her own hand."

See the Book Reviews in the Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society written by Isabel Maddison (1897-1899).


  1. Whitman, Betsey S. Women of Mathematics: A Biobibliographic Sourcebook, Louise Grinstein and Paul Campbell, Editors, Greenwood Press, 1987.
  2. Bailey, Martha J. American Women in Science: A Biographical Dictionary, ABC-CLIO, 1994.
  3. Obituary, New York Times, October 24, 1950, p29.
  4. Mary Williams Papers. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe College.
  5. Helen Brewster Owens Papers. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe College.
  6. Bryn Mawr College Archives.
  7. Author Profile at zbMath
  8. Mathematics Genealogy Project
  9. Biography at the MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive