BAXTER, AGNES SIME (Hill), mathematician; b. 18 March 1870 in Halifax, daughter of Robert Baxter; m. 20 Aug. 1896 Albert Ross Hill in Halifax, and they had two daughters; d. 9 March 1917 in Columbia, Mo.
Agnes Baxter grew up in a fairly affluent family. Her parents had emigrated to Nova Scotia from Scotland, where her father had been manager of an electric light company. In Halifax he became foreman, and then manager of the Halifax Gas Light Company. Baxter entered Dalhousie University in 1887 and studied mathematics under Charles Macdonald* and mathematical physics under James Gordon MacGregor. Women generally shunned these subjects because of societal traditions and expectations; for instance, there were only 3 women in Baxter’s second-year mathematics class of 24. None the less, Baxter graduated ba in 1891 with first-rank honours in mathematics and mathematical physics, and received the Sir William Young Medal for the undergraduate with the highest standing of honours students in those subjects. In 1892 she completed her ma at Dalhousie.
Between 1892 and 1894 Baxter was a fellow in mathematics at Cornell University in New York under the famous Professor James Edward Oliver. She became the fourth woman in North America and the second Canadian woman to receive a phd in mathematics when she was granted one by Cornell in 1895. The title of her thesis was “On Abelian integrals, a resume of Neumann’s ‘Abelsche Integrele’ with comments and applications.” Oliver died the same year and Baxter edited his mathematical notes, which were later published.
In 1896 Baxter married a Nova Scotian who was an 1892 Dalhousie graduate and an 1895 Cornell phd, and they moved to Lincoln, Nebr., where he became a professor at the University of Nebraska. She did not teach there or at the University of Missouri or Cornell, the other institutions where her husband was a professor, for at her death he stated that she had given her life “to assist in my educational work instead of making an independent record for herself.” Agnes Baxter Hill died at the early age of 47 after being in ill health for a year and a half. The Dalhousie Gazette obituary called her one of the university’s “outstanding graduates, remarkable alike for her intellectual attainments and for her character,” which was remembered as gentle, quiet, and reserved. In perpetuation of her memory, her husband, then president of the University of Missouri, donated a large amount of money to Dalhousie to begin a collection of books in her mathematics speciality. The Agnes Baxter Reading Room was officially opened in March 1988 to honour this pioneer of higher education for women.
Copies of material concerning Agnes Sime Baxter Hill’s studies and family life were graciously supplied to the author in 1988 and 1989 by Dr Karl Dilcher of the dept. of mathematics, statistics, and computing science at Dalhousie Univ. (Halifax). A copy of this collection has since been deposited in the Dalhousie Univ. Arch. as MS 2-654 (Dilcher papers). Information concerning Baxter’s academic career was obtained from records at the Dalhousie archives and at the Graduate School, Cornell Univ. (Ithaca, N.Y.).
Dalhousie Univ. Arch. (Halifax), MS 1–7 (Dalhousie Univ., Registrar’s office), convocation programs, 1891–92; reg. of marks, 1883/84–1897/98; registration books, 1863–1911. Daily Missourian (Columbia), 9 March 1917. Dalhousie Gazette (Halifax), 15 June 1917. W. C. Eells, “Earned doctorates for women in the nineteenth century,” American Assoc. of Univ. Professors, Bull. (Easton, Pa), 42 (1956): 644–51. Missouri Alumnus (Columbia), 15 March 1917. B. F. Stambaugh, “The development of postgraduate studies at Cornell: the first forty years, 1869–1908” (phd thesis, Cornell Univ., 1965).