Download e-book for kindle: A history in sum : 150 years of mathematics at Harvard by Steve Nadis

By Steve Nadis

ISBN-10: 067472500X

ISBN-13: 9780674725003

ISBN-10: 0674726553

ISBN-13: 9780674726550

In the 20 th century, American mathematicians started to make serious advances in a box formerly ruled by way of Europeans. Harvard's arithmetic division was once on the heart of those advancements. A historical past in Sum is an inviting account of the pioneers who trailblazed a incredibly American culture of mathematics--in algebraic geometry and topology, advanced research, quantity concept, and a number of esoteric subdisciplines that experience hardly ever been written approximately outdoor of magazine articles or complicated textbooks. The heady mathematical suggestions that emerged, and the boys and girls who formed them, are defined right here in energetic, obtainable prose.

The tale starts off in 1825, while a precocious sixteen-year-old freshman, Benjamin Peirce, arrived on the collage. He may develop into the 1st American to supply unique mathematics--an ambition frowned upon in an period whilst professors mostly constrained themselves to instructing. Peirce's successors--William Fogg Osgood and Maxime Bôcher--undertook the duty of reworking the mathematics division right into a world-class examine heart, attracting to the school such luminaries as George David Birkhoff. Birkhoff produced a stunning physique of labor, whereas education a new release of innovators--students like Marston Morse and Hassler Whitney, who solid novel pathways in topology and different parts. Influential figures from all over the world quickly flocked to Harvard, a few overcoming nice demanding situations to pursue their elected calling.

A historical past in Sum elucidates the contributions of those awesome minds and makes transparent why the background of the Harvard arithmetic division is a vital a part of the background of arithmetic in the United States and beyond.

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That Peirce had taken on the scientific elite from Europe, emerging unscathed from those debates, “gave standing to both the scholar and his country,” writes Emory mathematician and historian Steve Batterson. ”43 As Hogan puts it, “Peirce was a scientific patriot. 44 Although Peirce was by no means lacking in ego, much of the work he did was not for self-aggrandizement, because he often did not bother to publish completed papers or, instead, let others take the credit. Beyond his individual accomplishments, Peirce was intent on showing that, when it came to science, Americans deserved a place on the world stage.

72 Benjamin Peirce and the Science of “Necessary Conclusions” Peirce’s views about mathematics were deeply colored by his fervent religious convictions. He considered mathematics one of the highest forms of human expression and, as such, a manifestation of God’s infinite wisdom. ”73 Peirce made no attempt, moreover, to conceal his religious feelings and was, instead, quite open about them. Indeed, in the introductory paragraph to his 1870 paper, he noted that the mathematical formulas contained therein had a divine origin—something that he considered to be true of mathematics in general.

4 The first volume of Bowditch’s translation was published in 1829, the year that Peirce graduated from Harvard. The other three volumes were published in 1832, 1834, and 1839, respectively. (Independently, a separate translation of Laplace’s work came out in 1831. That book, titled The Mechanism of the Heavens, was written by Mary Somerville, a British woman who, like Bowditch, had mostly taught herself mathematics and endeavored to make Laplace accessible. )5 Peirce continued to review Bowditch’s manuscripts during his tenure as a Harvard professor.

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A history in sum : 150 years of mathematics at Harvard (1825-1975) by Steve Nadis

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