Thursday, November 3, 2011

"Above the Senior Wrangler"

A fascinating piece from Smithsonian Magazine on Philippa Fawcett, who in 1890 shattered the stereotype (more like an ingrained conviction) that women were not capable of learning mathematics at the same level as men. Although women were not permitted entrance to the main colleges at Cambridge, they could take the math "tripos" -
Candidates typically sat for five and a half hours of exams every day for eight days—12 papers and 192 progressively more difficult questions in all. Those in contention for the title of Wrangler then sat for a further three days of examinations consisting of 63 still more testing problems.
The men were ranked, with the top group known as "Wranglers" and the best of those the "Senior Wrangler," and then women were ranked, their scores announced with reference to their male counterparts - "between the 15th and 16th Wrangler," say. Miss Fawcett's score was announced as "above the Senior Wrangler." And not just by a little, but an amazing 13% better.

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