Bookbeat: December 2007

The Indian ClerkThe Indian Clerk

by David Leavitt, Department of English
(Bloomsbury Press, 2007)
Available through Amazon

On a January morning in 1913, G. H. Hardy—eccentric, charismatic and, at thirty-seven, already considered the greatest British mathematician of his age—receives in the mail a mysterious envelope covered with Indian stamps. Inside he finds a rambling letter from a self-professed mathematical genius who claims to be on the brink of solving the most important unsolved mathematical problem of all time. Some of his Cambridge colleagues dismiss the letter as a hoax, but Hardy becomes convinced that the Indian clerk who has written it—Srinivasa Ramanujan—deserves to be taken seriously. Aided by his collaborator, Littlewood, and a young don named Neville who is about to depart for Madras with his wife, Alice, he determines to learn more about the mysterious Ramanujan and, if possible, persuade him to come to Cambridge. It is a decision that will profoundly affect not only his own life, and that of his friends, but the entire history of mathematics.

Based on the remarkable true story of the strange and ultimately tragic relationship between an esteemed British mathematician and an unknown—and unschooled—mathematical genius, and populated with such luminaries such as D. H. Lawrence, Bertrand Russell, and Ludwig Wittgenstein, The Indian Clerk takes this extraordinary slice of history and transforms it into an emotional and spell-binding story about the fragility of human connection and our need to find order in the world.

- Publisher

More on The Indian Clerk

Black Women in the Ivory Tower Black Women in the Ivory Tower

by Stephanie Y. Evans, African American Studies and Women’s Studies
(University of Florida Press, 2007)
Available through University of Florida Press

Black Women in the Ivory Tower, published in February 2007 by Assistant Professor of African American Studies and Women’s Studies Stephanie Evans, continues to grow in popularity and prestige.

Acclaimed race scholar Cornel West recently gave the book the following astounding review:

"Stephanie Y. Evans's book is a marvelous contribution to the scholarship on African American intellectual life. Evans's meticulous focus on a major blind spot in modern treatments of the life of mind is pioneering. Her highly impressive examinations of towering figures like Anna Julia Cooper and Mary McLeod Bethune yield rich and nuanced conceptions of engaged research, noble teaching and compassionate service. This text deserves serious attention."

Black Women in the Ivory Tower chronicles Black women's struggle for access to higher education and presents historic philosophies of influential scholars. Part One, an educational history, begins in 1850, when Oberlin conferred the first college diploma upon Lucy Stanton and continues through the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision. Part Two, an intellectual history, presents Black women's philosophies of higher education between Anna Cooper's 1892 A Voice from the South and Mary McLeod Bethune's 1955 "Last Will and Testament." This story reveals how Black women demanded space as students and asserted their voice as educators, contributing in significant ways to higher education in the United States.

From the Author

The century between the Civil War and the 1950s civil rights movement was the most significant era in the development of American education. During this period, a critical increase in Black women's educational attainment mirrored unprecedented national growth. African American women's quest for educational, social, and political empowerment offers a germane site from which to measure the larger demographic shift. This history complicates historic debates over vocational and liberal arts education while exposing inconsistencies between democratic equity and aristocratic elitism.

Barriers to Black women's college participation included violence, discrimination, and oppressive campus policies; yet, they insisted on earning advanced degrees. Despite being born enslaved, Dr. Anna Julia Cooper graduated from Oberlin College and earned a Ph.D. from the University of Paris in 1925. She argued that all human beings have a "right to grow" and saw access to higher education is an essential part of this right. Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, founder of Bethune-Cookman College and renowned educator, asserted that a university has three responsibilities: investigation, interpretation, and inspiration. Here, I investigate the history of collegiate Black women, interpret the relationship between cultural identity and knowledge production, and present a history to inspire transformation of today's Academy.

Though race and gender historiography has consistently grown since the mid-1980s, little scholarly work about Black women's educational history exists. In Black Women in the Ivory Tower, I carefully trace quantitative research, explore Black women's collegiate memoirs, and identify significant geographic patterns in America's institutional development. This research reveals unique perspectives of college life, historic patterns in higher education, and relevant educational philosophies offered by remarkable scholar-activists.

For more information on the book, including a slideshow, visit

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