Alicia Stott

Mathematician

Abstract geometric solids
Ben Miners / Getty Images

 Dates: June 8, 1860 - December 17, 1940

Occupation: mathematician

Also known as: Alicia Boole

Alicia's Family Heritage and Childhood

Alicia Boole Stott's mother was Mary Everest Boole (1832 - 1916), daughter of a rector, Thomas Everest, and his wife, Mary, whose family included several accomplished and educated men.  She was herself well-educated, at home by tutors, and was well-read. she married the mathematician George Boole (1815 - 1864), for whom Boolean logic is named.

Mary Boole attended some of her husband's lectures and helped him with his textbook on differential equations, published in 1859. George Boole was teaching at Queen's College in Cork, Ireland, when Alicia, their third daughter, was born there in 1860.

George Boole died in 1864, leaving Mary Boole to raise their five daughters, the youngest of whom was only six months old.  Mary Boole sent her children to live with relatives and focused on a book about mental health, applying psychic spirituality to mathematics, and published it as her husband's work. Mary Boole continued to write about mysticism and science, and later became known as a progressive educator.  She published several works on how to teach abstract concepts of math and science to children.

Alicia lived with her grandmother in England and her great-uncle in Cork for the ten years after her father's death, then she rejoined her mother and sisters in London.

Alicia Boole Stott's Interests

In her teens, Alicia Stott became interested in four-dimensional hypercubes, or tesseracts. She became secretary to John Falk, an associate of her brother-in-law, Howard Hinton, who had introduced her to tesseracts. Alicia Stott continued building models of cardboard and wood to represent the three-dimensional sections of four-dimensional convex regular solids, which she named polytopes, and published an article on three-dimensional sections of hypersolids in 1900.

In 1890 she married Walter Stott, an actuary. They had two children, and Alicia Stott settled into the role of homemaker until her husband noted that her mathematical interests might also be of interest to the mathematician Pieter Hendrik Schoute at the University of Groningen. After the Stotts wrote to Schoute, and Schoute saw photographs of some models that Alicia Stott had built, Schoute moved to England to work with her.  His side of the collaboration was based on conventional geometric methods, and Alicia Stott contributed insights based on her power of visualizing geometric shapes in four dimensions.

Alicia Stott worked on deriving Archimedean solids from Platonic solids. With Schoute's encouragement, she published papers on her own and that the two of them developed together.

In 1914, Schoute's colleagues at Groningen invited Alicia Stott to a celebration, planning to award to her an honorary doctorate. But when Schoute died before the ceremony could be held, Alicia Stott returned to her middle class life at home for some years.

In 1930, Alicia Stott began collaborating with H. S. M. Coxeter on the geometry of kaleidoscopes. In his publications on the topic, he credited Alicia Stott's role.

She also constructed cardboard models of the "snub 24-cell."

She died in 1940.

Alicia Stott's Accomplished Sisters

1. Mary Ellen Boole Hinton:  her grandson, Howard Everest Hinton, was had of the zoology department at University College in Bristol.

2. Margaret Boole Taylor married artist Edward Ingram Taylor and their son was Geoffrey Ingram Taylor, a mathematical physicist.

3. Alicia Stott was the third of the five daughters.

4. Lucy Everest Boole became a pharmaceutical chemist and lecturer in chemistry at the London School of Medicine for women. She was the second woman to pass the major exam at the London School of Pharmacy. Lucy Boole shared a home with her mother until Lucy's death in 1904.

5. Ethel Lilian Voynich was herself a novelist.

About Alicia Stott

  • Categories: mathematician
  • Places: Cork, Ireland, London, England
  • Period: 19th century, 20th century