Karen Parshall

Department Chair
Commonwealth Professor of History and Mathematics

Nau (434)924-6397 or Kerchof (434)924-1411

456 Nau Hall and 226 Kerchof Hall
Office Hours: Tuesdays 3:30-5:00 (in Kerchof 226) & Wednesdays 10:00-11:30 in Nau 456 or by appointment
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Field & Specialties

History of Science
History of Mathematics


B.A. (in French and Mathematics), University of Virginia, 1977.

M.A. (in Mathematics), University of Virginia, 1978.

Ph.D. (in History), University of Chicago, 1982.



  • The Emergence of the American Mathematical Research Community (1876-1900): J. J. Sylvester, Felix Klein, and E. H. Moore (with David E. Rowe).  AMS/LMS Series in the History of Mathematics. Vol. 8. Providence: American Mathematical Society and London: London Mathematical Society, 1994; paperback edition, 1997.
  • James Joseph Sylvester: Life and Work in Letters. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998.
  • James Joseph Sylvester: Jewish Mathematician in a Victorian World. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006.
  • Taming the Unknown: A History of Algebra from Antiquity to the Early Twentieth Century.(with Victor J. Katz). Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014.


  • Experiencing Nature: Proceedings of a Conference in Honor of Allen G. Debus (co-edited with Paul H. Theerman). Boston/Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1997.
  • Mathematics Unbound: The Evolution of an International Mathematical Community, 1800--1945 (co-edited with Adrian C. Rice). AMS/LMS Series in the History of Mathematics. Vol. 23. Providence: American Mathematical Society and London: London Mathematical Society, 2002).
  • Episodes in the History of Modern Algebra (co-edited with Jeremy G. Gray). AMS/LMS Series in the History of Mathematics. Vol. 32. Providence: American Mathematical Society and London: London Mathematical Society, 2007.
  • Bridging Traditions: Alchemy, Chemistry, and Paracelsian Practices in the Early Modern Era: Essays in Honor of Allen G.~Debus (co-edited with Michael T. Walton and Bruce Moran). Kirksville: Truman State University Press, 2015.

Current Research

My research focuses primarilty on the history of nineteenth- and twentieth-century algebra and on the history of science in the United States and Europe.  In addition to exploring technical developments of algebra, such as the theory of algebras, group theory, and algebraic invariant theory, I also work on more thematic issues: the development of national mathematical research communities (specifically in the United States and Great Britain) and the internationalization of mathematics in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  I have a secondary research interest in the history of early modern science.

I am currently at work on a new book tentatively entitled 'A New Era in the Development of Our Science': The American Mathematical Research Community, 1920-1950.

Awards & Honors

  • Albert Leon Whiteman Prize of the American Mathematical Society, Awarded January 2018.
  • Inaugural Fellow of the American Mathematics Society, Elected Fall 2012.
  • Corresponding Member, Académie internationale d'histoire des sciences, Elected June 2002.
  • John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellow, 1996-1997.

Courses Taught

  • HIEU 3321: The Scientific Revolution
  • HIUS 3401: The Development of American Science
  • MATH 3351: Linear Algebra
  • MATH 3354: Survey of Modern Algebra
  • MATH 5010: The History of the Calculus
  • MATH 5030: The History of Mathematics

Corcoran Department of History
University of Virginia
Nau Hall - South Lawn
Charlottesville, VA 22904


(434) 924-7147
(434) 924-7891
M-F 8am to 4:30pm
Department Contacts