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Teachers

I was always blessed with good teachers whom I regarded warmly, although often with some trepidation, not only for what they taught but also for their stature as persons. My elementary and secondary teachers gave me a love of good literature and impressed upon me the importance of good writing for which I shall be forever grateful. I shall mention here only four of my teachers and professors, one from each of the schools and universities which I attended.

In 1939 the long-time Principal of Wortley Road retired and was succeeded by a newcomer, Stanley Cushman, who took our Grade 8 class. We had never seen such a teacher as Mr. Cushman. He wasn't too old - he might have been 30 - although he probably appeared much older to us; he was enthusiastic; he was a knowledgeable and interesting teacher; and he loved his pupils. The last year of elementary school was a treat. Unfortunately for Wortley Road Mr. Cushman left in 1943.

I really should mention all of my high school teachers as they all had a great influence on me. However I shall mention only Jean MacRobert, who taught many of my mathematics classes. She had a B.A. and an M.A. in Mathematics, both from Toronto I believe. She was a strict disciplinarian, and a rigorous and demanding teacher who would write proofs of theorems and solutions to problems on the blackboard which were models of mathematical derivation, English style and penmanship. Nevertheless she was a warm and kindly person who took an interest in all of her students. I still remember her tolerant reaction when I approached her after class one day saying that I had been able to trisect an angle using only a straightedge and compass.

Miss MacRobert had a sister, Sarah, who taught mathematics at Jarvis Street Collegiate in Toronto. According to a colleague who attended Jarvis, Miss Sarah MacRobert was also a formidable and effective teacher. He remembers one Easter Break when he had a janitorial job at the school that his Miss MacRobert stayed late to offer him a ride home. "This was very unexpected" he said, "from someone whose strict discipline in class was legendary."
So we each remember our Miss MacRobert with gratitude, and even affection.

My professors at Western did not have the same impact on me as did my high school teachers although they were all competent and conscientious teachers. One whose course I have always been grateful for is Dr. Gordon R. Magee who in our final term gave a course in the history of mathematics. I still have the text, a small monograph, Outline of the History of Mathematics. On looking over the text now I see that I had indicated in pencil phrases and sentences which I thought of particular interest or importance. One which caught my eye while I was glancing at it while preparing these notes was about the English mathematician Thomas Harriot (1560-1621) whose Artis Analyticae Praxis published after his death marked "an advance both in symbolism and notation". Little did I realize then how important notation would be in most of my future work. I believe this little course created an interest in the history of science in general, and the history of mathemtics and computing in particular, which has continued to this day.

The person I particularly remember from the University of Toronto is Dr. B. A. Griffith who supervised my Ph.D. research. Dr. Griffith was an excellent lecturer, and a patient and meticulous supervisor. He was especially careful about writing, and my thesis at times became a grand exercise in writing English prose, an exercise which has benefited me throughout my professional career. Fortunately Dr. Griffith has written an interesting and informative memoir on his life in Toronto.


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