Professor Florian Cajori


Years at the college: 1889 - 1918

B.S. Wisconsin 1883
M.S. Wisconsin 1886
Ph.D. Tulane 1894

Florian Cajori (1859-1930) was born in Switzerland, son of a leading civil engineer, and came to the United States in 1875, when he was sixteen. He studied at the University of Wisconsin as an undergraduate, and did graduate work there and at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, before joining the faculty of Tulane University. He had to leave New Orleans within a couple of years on developing tuberculosis, and came to Colorado Springs for his health, where he was invited by President Slocum to join the faculty of Colorado College first as a part-time instructor (at $30 per month) and within a year as professor of physics (at $1500 per year).

As professor of physics from 1889-1898, Cajori ardently promoted scientific studies at the college, not least through his founding of the Colorado College Scientific Society in 1890, and is celebrated particularly for taking, with his physics class, the first X-ray photographs in the West. In 1898, he became professor of mathematics, and five years later, became also the founding Dean of the School of Engineering.

Throughout his time at Colorado College (he first lived in Hagerman Hall and then later at 1119 Wood Ave.), Cajori kept up an extraordinary research productivity in books and papers. His first book was more or less finished by the time he joined the college, but he followed it up with many more:

  • The Teaching and History of Mathematics in the United States (1890)
  • A History of Mathematics (1894)
  • A History of Elementary Mathematics with Hints of Methods of Teaching (1896)
  • A History of Physics in its Elementary Branches:Including the Evolution of Physical Laboratories (1899)
  • An Introduction to the Modern Theory of Equations (1904)
  • History of the Logarithmic Slide Rule and Allied Instruments (1909)
  • William Oughtred, a great seventeenth-century Teacher of Mathematics (1916)

In between times, he also wrote several school textbooks in arithmetic and algebra, and 111 research papers, mostly in the history of mathematics.

Despite the quantity and pace of his research activities, Cajori carried heavy teaching and administrative loads as well. By the end of his time at the college his qualities of calm, reliable diplomacy proved invaluable when he chaired the gang of three who steered the college over the tumultuous period at the end of President Slocum's reign.

The degree to which he was loved and revered by students is very evident from entries in successive volumes of the Pike's Peak Nugget as well as in the recorded memories of students up to fifty years later, and was never more clearly shown than in the editorial in the student newspaper The Tiger on May 14, 1918 when he announced that he was resigning from the college in order to take up a chair in the history of science created for him at the University of California, Berkeley.


On March 1, 1999, the Colorado College Department of Mathematics sponsored a community-wide tea to commemorate the 140th anniversary of Florian Cajori's birth. At the time, the distinguished mathematics historian John Fauvel from the Open University in England was spending the semester at the college as a Fulbright Scholar. Professor Fauvel gave the anniversary address after which the audience enjoyed tea and assorted pastries, including a Battenburg cake.

In the spring of 2015, the mathematics department hosted the annual meeting of the Rocky Mountain section of the Mathematics Association of America, an organization that Florian Cajori helped found. At this meeting, Mike Siddoway (a member of the department who was serving in the Dean's office) led a ceremony to dedicate a Palmer Hall classroom (room 126) to the memory of Florian Cajori. Cajori had taught mainly in Palmer Hall and although room 126 was probably not his exact classroom, it was symbolic of Cajori's legacy.

Back to the Time Line

Report an issue - Last updated: 01/11/2024