Jennie A. Kinnear Came From Port Colborne

For Section A Mathematics of the December 1921 Toronto Meeting of the

American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).                            

Another 1921-2021 Centennial in the History of Canadian Science and Technology.

First posted Friday, October 8, 2021 / Yom shishi, 2 Cheshvan, 5782

By David Orenstein

December 27 t0 31, 1921, the University of Toronto hosted the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

The first Canadian AAAS Meeting had been in 1857, in Montreal, and again in 1882, then a Toronto meeting in 1889. The University of Toronto hosted the 1913 International Geological Congress, leading to inviting the AAAS to hold its 1915 meeting in Toronto. After World War I, this invitation was accepted for the 1921 Winter Meeting.

While the overall framework and some of the programme highlights were provided by the Association’s Washington, D.C., headquarters and the Toronto organising committee, the bulk of the scientific programming had to come from the Sections themselves, their local representatives and their related societies. These sections ran from Section A Mathematics, through B Physics and D Astronomy, to finally N Medical Sciences and Q Education.

Section A Mathematics held a joint session on the afternoon of Thursday, December 29, with the American Mathematical Society (AMS) and the Mathematical Association of America (MAA), in Room 8 of the Main Building, that is, the iconic University College.

Retiring Vice-President, R. D. Curtiss (Northwestern University) gave the lecture “A Mechanical Analogy in the Theory of Equations”, later published in Science. Then R. M. Yerkes of the U.S. National Research Council, discussed their “research information service” and H.E. Slaught (University of Chicago) gave a programme for “subsidy funds for mathematical projects”. Arnold Dresden (University of Wisconsin) read the abstract for R. D. Carmichael’s (University of Illinois) “Algebraic guides to transcendental problems”.

The sectional committee nominated George Abram Miller (University of Illinois) to be the Vice-President for Section A Mathematics at the December 1922 American Association Meeting in Boston.

Friday evening, the 30th, the mathematicians joined the physicists for a celebratory dinner at Victoria College’s gothic Burwash Hall, on the east side of campus, though some may have instead attended the Women’s Dinner, held in the Great Hall of Hart House.

The American Mathematical Society had held its own regular sessions the day before, on the Wednesday, as their 28th annual meeting. The 32 paper programme had paired papers balancing papers of paired authors, for a net 30 contributors, out of 84 AMS members attending.

There were only two Canadian presenters: Ottawa high school principal and later school inspector, J.S.C. Glashan: twinned papers on the isodyadic quintic and septimic equations; and Samuel Beatty, University of Toronto Mathematics Professor, who had been Fields’ sole Ph.D. student, whose paper was on a subject dear to Fields’ heart: “The algebraic theory of algebraic functions”.

The newly elected section V-P, Miller, contributed two of his many papers building up Group Theory: “Substitutions which are commutative with every substitution of an intransitive group” and “Seeming contradictions in the theory of groups.”

Only two women contributed, Olive C. Hazlett (Mount Holyoke College), “A symbolic theory of expansions in orthogonal functions” and Louise D. Cummings (Vassar College), “Hesse’s associated points and the Weddel surface”.

Cummings’ and Hazlett’s affiliations were in The American Mathematical Monthly’s list of 110 members in attendance for the MAA sessions. Seven papers, none by women, though eleven were present. Eight more Americans: Clara L. Bacon and Florence P. Lewis, Goucher College; Sister Mariola Dobbin, St. Clara College; Mrs. F.W. Owens there with her husband F.W. Owens, both of Cornell University; Mrs. Anna J. Pell, Bryn Mawr College; Mary E. Sinclair, Wellesley College; and Jessica M. Young, Washington University. The only Canadian woman: Jennie A. Kinnear.

Jennie A. Kinnear came from Port Colborne, Ontario, at the south end of the Welland Canal. She was likely in Toronto on her Christmas/New Year’s break from teaching Mathematics at Port Colborne Collegiate Institute.

The early evidence I have found is that she graduated with a B. A. as a Mathematics Specialist, from the Queen’s University Arts Faculty in 1913. From the Queen’s University Arts ’13 Year Book, p. 15:


“The allurements of Queen’s were too great for Jennie. Ignoring Toronto, she came straight from Port Colborne to take a Mathematical Specialist course here. Her mathematical tendencies haven’t spoiled her genial nature, as is shown by her election to the Presidency of the Residence in her final year. The future before her looks bright.

“ ‘A picture of health and hospitality’ ’’

A contemporary of hers was Frances Mabel Ashall who submitted her M. A. Thesis in Astronomy to the University of Toronto in 1917. In summer 2020, I posted a couple of blogs here about Ashall, who also had a career has  a high school math/science teacher, though in Toronto, not Port Colborne. I wonder if they ever met?

Kinnear had come to Queen’s from Port Colborne and then returned. The 1965 Queen’s Review noted her passing as a retired high school teacher on April 11 that year at, of course, Port Colborne. It does seem that, except for her sojourn at Queen’s (and possibly at the University of Toronto’s Ontario College of Education), she had a life rooted strongly in her community. Not such a bad thing, based on experiencing two years restricted, because of the pandemic, to my Toronto neighbourhood, Riverdale.

But gradating in 1913! Soon they were all to be deeply affected by World War I. It’s certain that many of her male classmates would have enlisted in the armed forces, many to die on the battlefields of Europe. Maybe her boyfriend nor fiancé, for Jennie A. Kinnear remained unmarried for life.

But that’s another story.


Frances Mabel Ashall Blog Posts

1)American as Apple Pie: Stealing Canadian Credit; August 21, 2021

2)Who Was Miss Ashall? August 28, 2020

1921 Centennial Blog Posts:

  • Introducing the 1921-2021 Centennials, January 6, 2021.

  • Introducing the Insulin Centennial, February 5,2021.

  • Insulin in June 1921 (June 4, 2021).

  •  Insulin in July,1921, July 23, 2021.

5) NRC 1921:R.F. Ruttan New NRC Chair Centennial Post;February 19, 2021.

6)NRC 1921: Robert Alexander Ross, the third Chairman of the National Research Council; August 20, 2021

Montreal Engineer New NRC Chairman: One Hundred Years Ago Yesterday

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