Fonds 1033 - Edward J. Barbeau fonds

Identity area

Reference code

UTA 1033


Edward J. Barbeau fonds


  • 1902-2006 [bulk, 1955-2003] (Creation)

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Extent and medium

2.10 m of textual and graphic records, sound recordings, publications (17 boxes)

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Name of creator


Biographical history

Edward Barbeau was born in Toronto in 1938 and received his Bachelor of Arts (1960) and Master of Arts (1961) from the University of Toronto. While taking his masters’ degree, he was a lecturer in the Department of Mathematics. In 1961 he left for the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in England where he studied under F.F. Bonsall. He held a position as temporary lecturer there in 1963-1964 and received his PhD in the latter year. His thesis topic was on functional analysis. From 1964-1966 he was assistant professor at the University of Western Ontario, and then a NATO research fellow at Yale for one year. In 1967 he accepted an appointment as assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics at the University of Toronto. He was promoted to associate professor in 1969 and full professor in 1988. In 2003 he was appointed professor emeritus.

Professor Barbeau’s principal research areas are functional analysis, optimization under constraint, history of analysis, and number theory. His teaching at the undergraduate level, has included courses in the history of mathematical analysis, a general interest course in mathematics for students in other disciplines, a course on chaos and dynamical systems, a course on Pell’s equation, and a course in mathematics for intending elementary teachers. Graduate courses have included functional analysis, Fourier series, and a shared course on problem solving for a Masters of Science in Teaching program.

He has been especially active in mathematics education and “has published a number of books directed to students of mathematics and their teachers, including Polynomials..., Power Play..., Fallacies, flaws and flimflam... and After Math..., has frequently given talks and workshops at professional meetings and in schools, has worked with high school students preparing for Olympiad competitions and has on five occasions accompanied the Canadian team to the International Mathematical Olympiad.”1 In addition to his books, Professor Barbeau has written about fifty papers on mathematics research and mathematics education.

Professor Barbeau holds life membership in the Mathematical Association of America, American Mathematical Society, and the Canadian Mathematical Society (where he chaired its education committee, served on its Olympiads committee, and chaired the Canadian Mathematical Olympiad). He is also a member of the Canadian Society for History and Philosophy of Mathematics (president 1983-1985), and the International Commission of Mathematics Instruction (co-chair of ICMI Study 16 and its conference in Trondheim, 2006). He has also made presentations at many colloquia and meetings of these organizations and the International Congress on Mathematics Education. He is currently (2006) associate editor of the ‘Fallacies, flaws and flimflam column in the College Mathematics Journal and education editor for Notes of the Canadian Mathematical Society.

Other professional activities have included being a member of the People-to-People Mathematics Education delegation of North Americans to China (1983), and of the council of the Royal Canadian Institute, where he delivered a three-part radio talk in 1982; and chairing the external review panel for the Department of Mathematics at Wilfrid Laurier University (1999). He has also co-chaired the committee to review the constitution and by-laws of the University of Toronto Faculty Association (2002), and sat on the panel for the Postsecondary Education Quality Assessment Board to examine the proposal for a BSc degree at the new University of Ontario Institute of Technology (2002). Since 2004 he has been a member of the executive committee of Retired Academics and Librarians at the University of Toronto (RALUT). From 1988 to 1990 he appeared frequently on Quirks and Quarks, the CBC radio program, and since 2001 has authored a regular mathematics problem in the CAUT Bulletin.

Professor Barbeau’s honours include fellow of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), 1989; David Hilbert Award for contributions to mathematics education, from the World Foundation of National Mathematics Competitions (1991), and the Adrien Pouliot Award from the Canadian Mathematical Society (1995).

He continues to reside and work in Toronto.

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Scope and content

Records documenting the education and career of Edward Barbeau as a mathematician, primarily at the University of Toronto. Included are files on his education; administrative and teaching files; professional organizations, especially the Gelfand Club of Ontario; manuscripts and publications, in particular his column, “Aftermath”, and his book, Polynomials; addresses, photographs, and audiotapes. There are numerous files on his outreach work to high school students and professionals, especially engineers.

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