Three questions to Clemency Montelle


This is the fifth interview in the series Three questions, in which scholars,  invited to participate in the SAW events, answer three questions about their research.

It is my honour to introduce Clemency Montelle, who has given a talk about The mathematics underlying parallax in Sanskrit sources for the seminar Mathematical Practices in the context of the astral sciences and about Āmarājas commentary on the Khaṇḍakhākdyaka of Brahmagupta for the seminar Reading Mathematical texts.

Clemency Montelle is a lecturer for the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand. She has a first-class honours undergraduate degree, with a double major in Mathematics and Classical Studies (with an emphasis in Greek and Latin). After completing a Masters degree, she was awarded a Fulbright graduate student award which supported PhD research at Brown University, Providence RI, USA, at the Department of the History of Mathematics under the expert guidance of the late Professor David Pingree, Dr Alice Slotsky, and Dr Kim Plofker, reading original texts in the Exact Sciences in Greek, Latin, Sanskrit, Arabic, and Cuneiform.

She is a mathematician with research expertise in the History of Mathematics. She combines a sound reading knowledge of several arcane languages and reads antique and medieval primary source mathematical manuscripts to investigate questions related to their content, context, origins, and their theoretical and practical ramifications, and consider issues of the transmission of mathematical knowledge from culture to culture.

1. Sarah Diemu-Trémolières : How did you get interested in astronomy in Sanskrit ?
Clemency Montelle : I studied Greek and Latin at university as well as Mathematics.  After several years studying these two seemingly disparate fields I realized that I could read ancient scientific texts in these original languages to bring together the two strands of my study.  After Greek and Latin, Sanskrit seemed the next ancient language to master.  Little did I know that their scientific tradition was so vast and so little studied!

2. SDT : What were your key findings in studying the cultural aspect of mathematical knowledge in astronomy?
Clemency Montelle: My interests arise from the twofold nature of our investigation into the History of Science; that science is both defined and shaped by the cultural context in which it is practiced but also can be approached more abstractly as well as a form of knowledge which seemingly transcends its cultural context.  Balancing these two line of inquiries is as delicate as it is rewarding.

3. SDT : What do you expect from your trip to Paris in the framework of the SAW ERC project ?
Clemency Montelle: I am looking forward to workshopping some of my finds in the texts I am studying, both with fellow scholars who specialize in this area, but also from those in other closely related disciplines.  I want to know what questions they have of the sources, as well as reflections they have with respect to the content and the connections with their cultures of inquiry.
SDT :Many thanks !