Professor publishes book on renowned educator

Many books standing upright, pictured from above.

Lassonde Professor Richard Hornsey – who is also the associate dean, academic and students at Lassonde – has published a book about influential educator and innovator George Minchin Minchin (1845-1914), a professor of applied mathematics.

Hornsey’s book ­– titled The Many-Sidedness of George Minchin Minchin – was initially born of familiarity. “I was first drawn to George Minchin because of his pioneering work on photodetectors – which is my own area of engineering research,” says Hornsey, who also shares Minchin’s passion for engineering education, having played a lead role in the establishment of the Lassonde School of Engineering at York University over a decade ago.

The book, however, was also driven by a sense of discovery. As Hornsey embarked on a years-long journey uncovering Minchin’s history, he found more that drew him to the educator. “I discovered his advanced ideas of education, the elegance of his writing and, above all, his wit and humour. Add an early modern work of science fiction and satires that poked fun at the scientific establishment, and I was hooked,” Hornsey says.

Minchin was a professor of applied mathematics at the Royal Indian Engineering College. His extraordinary range of accomplishments offers a unique inside view of the major technological and educational developments of late 19th-century Britain. Minchin’s mathematical textbooks were praised for their lucidity, and his advanced pedagogical thinking underpinned his lifelong work on reforming science education.

The Many-Sidedness of George Minchin Minchin is the first complete biography of Minchin. It unveils the scientific community’s excitement during the early days of electromagnetic theory, wireless telegraphy and X-rays. It also traces Minchin’s little-known work on photoelectricity, which led to the first electrical measurements of starlight and laid the foundations for solar cells and television.

This is Hornsey’s second book in two years following Imperial Engineers: The Royal Indian Engineering College, Coopers Hill.