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Coxeter, Harold Scott Macdonald
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Coxeter, Harold Scott MacDonald (oral history)

Oral history interview with Professor Harold S.M. Coxeter conducted by Valerie Schatzker. Commences with his family background, early education and choice of career and ends with a discussion of his activities in retirement. Focusses on period 1935-1986 and the Dept. of Mathematics, appointments, promotions and tenure, curricula and geometry, research and teaching.

Coxeter, Harold Scott Macdonald

Harold Scott Macdonald Coxeter fonds

  • UTA 1183
  • collection
  • 1891-2004 (predominant 1930-2003)

This fonds contains several series of records that document both Coxeter’s professional and personal life. Much of the professional correspondence in Series 2, as well as awards, tributes and obituaries found in Series 1 document his role as a mathematical mentor who influenced and inspired professional and amateur mathematicians alike. The bulk of the correspondence however mainly post dates his official retirement in 1980 and is therefore incomplete in documenting his extensive relationships with many mathematicians around the world throughout his lengthy career.

Four decades of correspondence, (1930s -1980), is not the only gap in the Coxeter fonds. Also missing is the voluminous amount of manuscripts for his articles and books along with research notes and drafts that would accompany such records. Nevertheless, what does exist of the professional correspondence, along with lectures in Series 5, course teaching notes in Series 7 and the few manuscripts and many geometrical drawings in Series 6, give researchers a window into his mathematical genius. There are also a full run of diaries, Series 4, that briefly record Coxeter’s day to day activities and thoughts.

Personal correspondence in Series 3, early family photographs in Series 9, early creative works in Series 10, diaries in Series 4 and Ph.D. records in Series 8 shed light onto various aspects of Coxeter’s life before arriving at the University of Toronto in 1936. These documents give researchers glimpses of his early childhood and upbringing, his early mastering of music, as well as, his research at Cambridge. His role as a father and husband as well as the relationships within the extended Coxeter family are best documented in a substantial part of the personal correspondence found in Series 3 as well in the daily diaries in Series 4.

The Coxeter fonds also includes some original items from other important mathematicians. There is a scrapbook of geometric drawings that belonged to fellow mathematician Alicia Boole Stott. This item dated 1899 makes up the entire Series 11. Also Coxeter acquired some of the papers belonging to 19th century British mathematician W.W. Rouse Ball presumably when he was producing further editions of one of Ball’s publications. This has been placed in Series 12.

Fonds also includes copies of Professor Coxeter's publications on mathematical problems that have been translated into other languages, and copies of Canadian and American counter-memorials and annexes to the International Court of Justice's "Delimitation of the Maritime Boundary in the Gulf of Maine Area, with covering correspondence (Coxeter was an adviser to the Canadian government).

Coxeter, Harold Scott Macdonald