NotCH 3: The Love of Learning

It’s amazing the things one finds while scavenging.

E. R. Love was Professor of Pure Mathematics at the University of Melbourne in the latter half of the 20th Century. Last year we wrote about Professor Love and about the loss of, the forgetting of, the scholarly tradition that he represented. A few days ago commenter tom noted Professor Love’s towering and intelligent presence in Victorian exams, before the lunatics took over the asylum. A couple weeks ago we stumbled across an example of that presence.

Embedded below are notes on logarithms that Professor Love wrote, presumably for teachers, seemingly in 1960.* Readers are welcome to compare Professor Love’s treatment with that in the draft curriculum (also discussed here in 2.2.1), or that in the current curriculum, or that in any recent Australian textbook.

*) We had thought to title this post The Love of Logarithms, but that was too much a stretch. No one has ever loved logarithms; they’ve merely appreciated them, which was sufficient. The photo of Professor Love above appears, uncredited, in Counting Australia In, Graeme Cohen’s history of Australian mathematics.

9 Replies to “NotCH 3: The Love of Learning”

  1. E. R. Love had a very respectable mathematical background: English born, he was schooled in the rigour of G. H. Hardy – rigour that had also been transplanted to Australia. (Love was born in England, came to Australia at the age 10, but went back to England 12 years later for a Cambridge PhD.) In fact, I’m pretty sure that in one of the later editions of Hardy’s “A Course of Pure Mathematics”, in the introduction to that edition he thanks “Mr E. R. Love” for proof-reading and help with the exercises. So it’s not surprising that his writing on logarithms should have the virtues of clarity and precision.

    I will not take up the kind offer to compare Love’s treatment with the ACARA Draft Curriculum; I have enough stresses at the moment and I don’t need another one!

    1. Yep. Love was the last link to another world. When he came to give a (beautiful) talk at Bendigo in the early 90s, Love talked about Cambridge. He also mentioned his PhD supervisor, L C Young, in the present tense. “Huh!” It turned out, like Love, Young lived to an old age and was basically active until he died.

  2. Some stories – tangential to the main issue of Love’s contribution to secondary education.

    First some reminiscences of Michael Deakin (sadly now also passed on)
    https://ms.unimelb.edu.au/engage/alumni/events/1960s-reunion/michael-deakin
    included the following:

    In subsequent years my teachers [at Melbourne University] included the late Professors Russell Love and Sir Thomas Cherry. Love, in particular, was a superb lecturer. It was said of him that he was a menace because he made his subject seem so straightforward and logical that one missed seeing its difficulties.

    I too found Love’s presentations superb. One lovely aspect of his Pure Maths III Honours Course was his proofs of various theorems in complex analysis dealing with infinite collections of sets. All would seem lost until Love applied the Heine-Borel covering theorem and reduce problem to a finite set. So I was surprised to read in Love’s memories of G. H. Hardy
    (Australian Mathematical Society Gazette Vol. 25 Part 1 (1998) somewhere)
    that Hardy threatened him with a fine of a shilling because he missed an error in the proof of Heine-Borel and he “didn’t like that theorem at that time”.

    Love was always self-deprecating. I met up with him at Edinburgh University – we were chatting together when X invited him to a seminar on subject Y. Love declined saying he he would not understand a word. I recall the look of shock on X’s face; such admissions were not meant to be uttered at Edinburgh. In contrast to Love’s own words, here is an excerpt from an email to me from my old tutor Allen Oaten.

    Frank Barrington told me [Love] was still active until he had a stroke in his late 80s. He produced more research than most of the faculty, and also was a tutor. Frank told me of asking one student, whom he had tutored the year before, how was he doing and then who was his tutor – “I dunno his name, but it’s the old bugger who knows everything.” There are certainly worse ways for a teacher to be remembered!

    My next story, more relevant to Love’s work with the schools examinations board, comes from colleague Alan Davidson – I don’t know his source. Candidate’s for the examinations were forbidden to contact the examiner on pain of failure. Some silly student rang Love at his home to get an early result. Love asked for name and examination number and then announced a revised mark of zero. These days there would be enquiries and law suits.

    PS It seems we are missing a decent photo of Russell Love. Decades ago I was browsing in an auction room prior to the auction. The cheap deceased effect section had a box of school magazines from Scotch College. I scanned through an edition (maybe 1930) and here was a photo of an ex student, E. R. Love, who had made good. Love was then at Melbourne University. I regret not buying the copy.

    1. Thanks very much, tom. I’ve tidied your comment a little, to make the italics work.

      Professor Love was a special guy, as was Mike Deakin, who I also wrote about in the same post. I also agree, it is astonishing how difficult it is to find a half-way decent photograph of Love. Perhaps Gareth can do some digging.

  3. Interesting that Thomas Cherry is mentioned. There is an entire issue of The Australian Mathematics Teacher (March 1968, Vol 24 No. 1) entirely devoted to him; with articles about his research, his teaching, his mountaineering, and his scouting. Unlike many current researchers, he never saw teaching as a lesser activity, but immensely important, and he taught a huge amount at the university, at the same time being very involved with schools and their curricula. We don’t have such giants these days.

    (As a side note: Prof Cherry’s only daughter Jill – still very much alive at the age of 88 – was a lifelong friend of my late mother – they met as girls travelling from England to Australia in 1939. My mother more-or-less grew up with the Cherry family. So I actually remember Prof Cherry – not as a mathematician, given that I was only six when he died – but as a kindly man, “Tom”, who I would meet occasionally at his home.)

    1. Wow! I’ve long been fascinated by Thomas Cherry but knew/know little about him. I know he was also huge in school mathematics, I guess overlapping with Love, but mostly before. He was also big in making the MAV what it once was. I read what I could about him when I decided to trash the MAV, but it was difficult to get a sense of what he actually did, what he stood for. He clearly had standards, and he clearly saw school mathematics as very important, but his point of view towards it all was difficult to discern. I’ll try to dig up that AMT issue. Thanks.

      1. Like I said, we don’t have such giants these days. It’s all little people (present company excepted, of course!) bickering about minutiae.

  4. My first position was as a Tutor at the University of Melbourne – when Tutor was an official position in universities. Professor Love was HoD at the time and I have many fond memories of him. While I was there the Department of Mathematics moved to a different building – the Old Anatomy Building. We debated a new name for the building. “The Thomas Cherry Building” was suggested. Professor Love disagreed; we would save that name for when Mathematics has its own new building. Mathematics is still in the same place, now the “Peter Hall Building”.

    BTW, I have just obtained a copy of the book Michael A. B. Deakin, “The name of the number”.

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