A search for Maths roots

I wonder how many of my readers have heard of the Analytic Club. My attention to it was drawn by V. Viswanathan, who shuttles between the U.S. and Madras. Viswanathan, the grandson of Rao Bahadur S. Narayana Aiyar, who was responsible for getting the great mathematician Ramanujan to join the Madras Port Trust and who helped him to take the first steps on that journey to Cambridge, had in the past provided me much material on Ramanujan. Now he was introducing me to the Analytic Club.

But before I get to the story of the Club, let me note that that story came out of Viswanathan's researches while in the U.S. Of those researches he writes this revealing note: “Sitting at home in front of my laptop, I could visit the libraries of some American Universities, browse topic wise, shelf wise, looking for the papers I wanted. This is a wonderful facility which I thoroughly enjoyed.” Would that our libraries had such facilities! And if they had, would that what had been meant to be on the shelves was still there!

What Viswanathan had been asked to do by the Indian Mathematical Society was to trace the ‘Progress Reports' of the Society's predecessors, the Analytic Club and the Indian Mathematical Club, which were neither with the Society nor anywhere else in India. That search providentially turned up, at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, Progressive Reports 7 and 8 among other papers of the Indian Mathematical Society. Even more serendipitously it turned up the Constitution of the Indian Mathematical Club and a copy of the Journal of the Indian Mathematical Society dating to 1933 in which Prof. S.B. Balekar, the Honorary Joint Secretary states. “It was V. Ramaswami Aiyar, then deputy collector of Gooty, who in 1907 addressed a few friends interested in Mathematics for securing facilities for advanced studies in the subject by way of Mathematical books and journals. About twenty gentlemen responded and the formation of the ‘Analytic Club' was announced in the Madras papers on 4th of April 1907. From the very outset the non-parochial and universal character of the Society was in evidence. These first foundation members consisted of two men in Revenue service, two Engineers, a Superintendent of the Accountant General's Office, while the rest were teachers in Colleges. Classifying by provinces, there were three Professors from the Bombay Presidency, and the remaining from Madras.” Even though Viswanathan draws his own conclusions from internal evidence in the Constitution and the Progress Reports (one of which lists 73 members) as to who the founding “about 20 are”, what is certain is the leadership of the Analytic Club founded in 1907, and the Indian Mathematical Club it became in 1908.

The first President was Prof. B. Hanumanta Rau of the College of Engineering, Madras. The Joint Secretaries were V. Ramaswami Aiyar and Prof. M.T. Naraniengar of Central College, Bangalore. The Treasurer was Prof. K.J. Sanjana of Samaldas College, Bhavnagar, and the Librarian Prof. R.P. Paranjpye of Fergusson College, Poona. Amongst the early members from Madras were V. Ramesan, the well-known lawyer of the Madras High Court, Dr. S. Swaminathan, Barrister-at-Law, R. Littlehailes, Professor of Mathematics, Presidency College, S. Narayana Aiyar, Manager, Madras Port Trust Office, and R. Ramachandra Rao, Registrar of Co-operative Credit Societies, Madras.

The Analytic Club changed its name to the Indian Mathematical Club and then, in 1909, re-named itself the Indian Mathematical Society (IMS) by which name it remains. Papers from the Indian Mathematical Club and the Society first reached Brown University in 1909 through the efforts of Raymond Clare Archibald, after which the University began subscribing to the journal of the IMS.

In explaining the change of name, the Constitution, published in the The Progress Report of the Indian Mathematical Club dated 15th October 1908, states, “Whereas an Indian Mathematical Society has been formed under the name ‘The Analytic Club' for the time being, and it is necessary to give it a name and Constitution suitable to its present position, it is hereby provided as follows:

a) That the Society be named ‘The Indian Mathematical Club'.

b) That its objects be the promotion of Mathematical Study and Research in India.

c) That its headquarters be the Fergusson College, Poona, for the time being.”

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Mission from New Zealand

Can you tell me anything about a missionary from New Zealand, Miss Alice Henderson, who worked in Madras around the turn of the 19th Century and who ran a school here, I've been asked and am afraid that I can't offer too much in response.

From what I gather it appears that the Presbyterian Church in New Zealand and its Women's Missionary Union supported, from 1892, women missionaries in Madras and Nagpur working with the United Free Church of Scotland and the Church of Scotland Missions. As part of that support there arrived in Madras in 1896 Alice Henderson and Helen MacGregor. Amongst their many activities, they taught at the United Free Church of Scotland School in Georgetown. Whether that school still exists, I have not been able to find out.

In 1899, MacGregor, her health broken, returned to New Zealand. But Alice Henderson appears to have been enchanted by India and poetically waxed, “who that has once set foot upon thy shores can fail to carry through life the haunting memories of thy sights and sounds?” She remained in Madras till 1909 and during her stay here, became fluent enough in Tamil and Telugu to take classes in the two languages. She also learnt Tamil Braille and put it to use in a school where she taught blind men handicrafts and women lace-making.

In 1908, the Presbyterian Church in New Zealand decided to establish a Mission presence of its own in India and sent out Rev. Dr. W.J. Porteous to look for a suitable location for it. He identified an area in the Punjab and to it went Alice Henderson too. In 1910, in Jagadhri (near Yamunanagar in the Haryana of today), she started the Christian Middle School (now St. Thomas's School) and served it till 1931.

Alice Henderson, a teacher by profession, had worked in her home town of Lyttleton near Christchurch before coming to India. She came from a remarkable family of four sisters. Elizabeth Reid McCombe, her sister, was the first woman member of New Zealand's Parliament. Another sister, Stella Henderson, was among New Zealand's first women journalists and lawyers. And a third sister, Christina Henderson, a teacher and journalist, became better known as a social reformer who campaigned for the vote for women in New Zealand.

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When the postman knocked…

*My reference to Hannah Ratnam Krishnamma (Miscellany, October 12) being the first woman postgraduate from Madras Christian College has reader Joshua Kalapati informing me that since they first mentioned that fact in the history of the College he did with Ambrose Jeyasekaran, subsequent research has led them to a surprising fact, namely, that she was none other than the person better known as Kamala Satthianadhan. Her mother was Oruganti Sivarama Krishnamma and her maternal grandfather was Ratnam Garu. She married Prof. Satthianadhan after his first wife, Krupabai, had died and he named her Kamala, recalling the famous novel, Kamala, that Krupabai had written. Kamala Satthiandhan went on to found India's first women's magazine, The Indian Ladies Magazine, and to serve on the Senates of Madras and Andhra Universities.

*It constantly amazes me how the Corporation of Madras mangles the names of people on its road signs. And no one, including the press, seems to mind that Pugh's Road is Bugs Road in Tamil and Chevalier (Sivaji Ganesan Road) is Sevalia. But then you can't really blame the sign painters and their supervisors when the press itself is not sure about these names. Sriram V. writes that a recent report in The Hindu had violence taking place in Makkees Garden, Thousand Lights, instead of Mackay's Garden (named after George Mackay) as it should be.

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MetroplusJune 28, 2012