Agnes Scott College

Ida Martha Metcalf

Ida Metcalf

August 26, 1857 - October 24, 1952

Ida Metcalf was born in 1857. In the 1870's she taught in various one-room schools in New Hampshire communities. In 1886 Metcalf earned her Baccalaureate degree from Boston University. She then attended Cornell University, receiving her M.S. degree in 1889. In 1893 she became the second American woman to receive a Ph.D. in mathematics with a dissertation entitled "Geometric Duality in Spaces". For a time she was an assistant to Professor George Williams Jones in writing his mathematical textbooks, drill books in algebra and trigonometry, and logarithm and interest tables. Metcalf worked for a time as a security analyst in a banking office in New York, then won a competitive examination for a Civil Service position in the office of the Comptroller of New York City. She apparently was the first woman to win such an examination. She served in this office until her retirement. Metcalf was fluent in French and read both Latin and Greek. She tutored mathematics and Latin after hours, even when she was in the comptroller's office


  1. Green, Judy and Jeanne LaDuke. "Women in the American Mathematical Community: The Pre-1940 Ph.D.'s".
  2. Walter Eells. "American doctoral dissertations on mathematics and astronomy written by women in the nineteenth century," Mathematics Teacher, May 1957, p374.
  3. Mary Elizabeth Williams Papers. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe College.
  4. Mathematics Genealogy Project

Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of Jim Madison