Mathematics: Place, Production and Publication, 1730-1940

January 17 - February 5, 2015

Mathematics has often been contrasted with other fields of science and with philosophy by virtue of the durability of its results, and even of its open problems. However, in the two centuries from 1730 – i.e. from the start of Euler’s career to the rise of an abstract approach to mathematics in the work of the Hilbert School, Banach, and many others, and the formation of the Bourbaki collective – there have been large shifts in the way in which mathematical activity has been situated institutionally, what publics it has interacted with and served, how its results have been disseminated, and how the internal structure of the field has been understood. These shifts have also depended in subtle ways on locality and political geography. The result is that historians of mathematics are better placed than ever before to analyse various aspects of the field with respect to general cultural history and political history while remaining sensitive to the mathematical content.

Our aim for the workshop is to produce a book which we hope will become, at least for our generation, the definitive one-volume history of mathematics of the period. While earlier authors, have written accounts which focus almost exclusively on the mathematical output, and rely heavily on the chain of publication, i.e. ‘who read who’, to bind the history together, our goal is a book which will be strikingly different. The mathematics will of course take centre stage but alongside the technical material, other elements – notably context, communication, complexity and historical causality, as well as ‘place, production and publication’ – will have a critical role to play.

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