Kenneth (Ken) Valente

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Kenneth (Ken) Valente

Professor of Mathematics and LGBTQ Studies, Emeritus

Department/Office Information

Mathematics, LGBTQ Studies

When I came to Hamilton in 1987, after completing a two-year National Science Foundation Post-Doctoral Fellowship at the University of California at Berkeley, I had a limited understanding of small liberal arts institutions. Since then, however, my experiences have mirrored the kind of intellectual transformations that we constantly seek to engender at Colgate through our curriculum and commitments.

The early part of my research career was dedicated to pure mathematics, with a particular interest in algebraic structures. As time went on, however, and through my involvement in the CORE curriculum and off-campus study, my horizons began to expand. In particular, time spent at the University of Manchester in England put me in contact with scholars in the history of science and technology. Against the backdrop of the world’s first industrial city, I started to ask and explore questions regarding mathematical innovations that emerged in the nineteenth century. Since then I’ve become particularly interested in the ways that developments related to higher dimensional spaces, non-Euclidean geometry, and the mathematization of the infinite were disseminated and discussed among lay (or non-specialist) audiences. This interest has underpinned a broad body of work that encompasses the history of mathematics, science, and ideas in the period 1870 – 1920. It has also provided me with opportunities to employ feminist and queer analytics in an attempt to understand better how knowledge is made and remade.

I didn’t anticipate undertaking such a departure from pure mathematics when I came to Colgate. Moreover, I don’t know that I could have done so elsewhere or without the encouragement of many gifted and generous colleagues. To my mind, providing a nurturing place for transformation is one of Colgate’s greatest features.

BS, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, 1979; MS (1982), PhD (1985), University of Oregon

Postdoctoral fellow, University of California, Berkeley, 1985-87

History of mathematics, science, and ideas since the 19th century; algebraic structures

Work in progress includes:

  • "Modes and Modalities of Mathematical Authority: Disseminating the 'New Infinite'"
  • "Queer(y)ing Mathematical Knowledge"
  • "Reception and Contestation: Mathematics and Esoteric Spirituality, 1875-1915"

Recent scholarship in LGBTQ Studies

  • K. G. Valente, M. Merryman, and W. Blumenfeld. "Introduction." Journal of Homosexuality Special Issue, 25 Years On: The State and Continuing Development of LGBTQ Studies. Eds. K. G. Valente, M. Merryman, and W. Blumenfeld. 
  • Molly Merryman and K. G. Valente. "Queering the Academy: A Case Approach to LGBTQ Studies." Expanding the Circle: Creating an Inclusive Environment for LGBTQ Students and Studies. Ed. John C. Hawley. Albany, NY: SUNY, 2015.

Recent scholarship in the history of science and mathematics includes:

  • "Alan Turing: Reflecting on the Life, Work, and Popular Representations of a Queer Mathematician." Mathematics in Popular CultureAppearances in Film, Fiction, Games, Television and Other Media.  Ed. Jessica and Elizabeth Sklar.  Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2012.
  • Entries on "Mathematics as Religion," "Religious Mathematicians," and "Religious Writings" for the Encyclopedia of Mathematics and Society. Ed. Sarah Greenwald and Jill Thomley. Pasadena CA: Salem, 2011.
  • "Giving Wings to Logic: Mary Everest Boole's Propagation and Fulfillment of a Legacy." British Journal for the History of Science. 43 (Mar 2010): 49-74.  Abstract
  • "Triangulating the Contribution of George Salmon to Victorian Disputes on Mathematics, Evolution, and Liberal Theology." Nineteenth Century Contexts. 31 (Sep 2009): 251-69.  Introduction
  • "'Who will explain the explanation?': The Ambivalent Reception of Higher Dimensional Space in the British Spiritualist Press, 1875-1900." Victorian Periodicals Review. 41 (Jun 2008): 124-49.  Introduction
  • "'A Finite Universe?': Riemannian Geometry and the Modernist Theology of Ernest William Barnes." British Journal for the History of Science. 38 (Jun 2005): 1-21.  Abstract
  • "Transgression and Transcendence: Flatland as a Response to 'A New Philosophy." Nineteenth Century Contexts. 26 (Mar 2004): 61-77.  Introduction

Research in pure mathematics has appeared in Pacific Journal of Mathematics, Rocky Mountain Journal of Mathematics, Proceedings of the Conference on Quadratic Forms and Real Algebraic Geometry; Journal of Pure and Applied Algebra and American Mathematical Monthly.

  • Director, Division of University Studies, 2013 - 2016
  • University Professor for First-Year Seminars, CORE Distinction, and Global Engagements, 2008 - 2012
  • Director, LGBTQ studies, 2009-2012
  • Interim University Professor for CORE Distinction and First-Year Seminars, Fall 2005
  • Visiting research fellow with the History of Science and Technology Unit of the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, 2002-03
  • Section Editor, "Mathematical Influences and New Directions," Handbook of the Mathematics of the Arts & Sciences (Springer)
  • Member of the Academic Advisory Panel, LGBT History Month UK, 2016 to present
  • Christian A. Johnson Endeavor Chair in Liberal Arts Studies, 2013 - 2016
  • Member of the National Advisory Committee, Expanding the Circle Summer Institute, California Institute for Integral Studies, 2012 - 2016
  • Institute Faculty, Expanding the Circle, June 2014, San Francisco
  • Institute Faculty, Expanding the Circle, June 2013, San Francisco
  • Institute Faculty, Expanding the Circle, June 2012, San Francisco
  • Colgate Picker Fellow, 1990/91
  • Pew Consortium Grant, 1989
  • Distinguished Teaching Award, University of California, Berkeley, 1986

Member of the History of Science Society and the British Society for the History of Science