Genres of writing in the history of ancient science

Organised by the ERC project SAW (Research Group SPHERE), in the context of the seminar History of Science, History of Text

Venue: Université Paris Diderot , Condorcet Building, room 483A
10 rue Alice Domon et Léonie Duquet 75013 Paris – map

April 14th, 2016 – 9:30 am to 5:30 pm

Presentation
Which genres can we identify in 19th  and 20th century writings in the history of ancient science? How do these genres depend on their institutional and social context, and which conceptions of the history of science do they reflect?

Speakers
CHEN Zhihui & ZHOU Xiaohan
, Establishing the orthodox: Writing and editing biographies of practitioners in the mathematical sciences in Chinese Qing Dynasty. 塑造传统:中国清代对畴人传记的编写
Agathe Keller, Listing biographies in histories of mathematics of the Indian subcontinent
Martina Schneider, History of (ancient) mathematics in the German biographical lexicon ADB

Programme  pdf version

CHEN Zhihui & ZHOU Xiaohan (ERC Project SAW & SPHERE – CNRS &  Université Paris Diderot)
Establishing the orthodox: Writing and editing biographies of practitioners in the mathematical sciences in Chinese Qing Dynasty. 塑造传统:中国清代对畴人传记的编写.
Abstract – The Biographies of Astronomers and Mathematicians (Chouren zhuan 疇人傳, hereafter CRZ) edited by Ruan Yuan (1764-1849) is the first Chinese book on biographies of practitioners who specialized in astronomy and mathematics. What interests us is not only how the book deals with these practitioners’ activities, works, and mathematical thoughts —which would mean we use the book as a source to enquire into the biographies of these actors— , but also the activity of writing and editing such biographies in and of itself. The enquiry into the latter subject derives from our curiosity about the efforts Confucian scholars made in Chinese Qing Dynasty to reincorporate the mathematical sciences into a Confucian orthodoxy which ruled over the legitimacy of knowledge in the ancient world. Why were these Confucian scholars at the time enthusiastic about mainstreaming the mathematical study into their philological work? Writing and editing biographies for mathematicians and astronomers is an obvious manifestation for this fact. We try to answer this question by addressing the motivations for these scholars’ work. We will also examine how they composed biographies and how they edited their sources to achieve their aims. In addition, the CRZ is one of the significant references in the Draft Biographies of Confucians (儒林傳稿) which was also edited by Ruan Yuan. We will examine the biographies of some Qing scholars both in these two books, comparing the overlaps and the differences, in order to do a case study on the role of CRZ during the establishment of the mathematical sciences as a part of the Confucian orthodoxy.

Agathe Keller (ERC Project SAW & SPHERE – CNRS & Université Paris Diderot)
Listing biographies in histories of mathematics of the Indian subcontinent
Abstract – The first published text devoted to the history of mathematics in the Indian subcontinent authored by an Indian scholar, was a list of biographies of important Indian mathematicians and astronomers. I would like here to look at the kind of text S. Dvivedin’s (1855-1910/11) sanskrit Gaṇakataraṅgiṇī (River of mathematicians; 1892) produces, reflecting both on its models and its posterity in later histories of mathematics written in the Indian subcontinent. What is the structure of such a biography? What are the historical tropes associated to it? are among the questions that will be raised.

Martina Schneider (ERC Project SAW & Universität Mainz, Germany)
History of (ancient) mathematics in the German biographical lexicon ADB
Abstract – A national biography might seem at first a strange place to look for the history of mathematics, and even more so for the history of ancient mathematics. However, there are quite a few entries on (German) mathematicians, as well as on (German) historians of mathematics in the Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB) – a 56 volume national biography edited between 1875 and 1912 by the historical commission of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences in Munich. Who are the authors of those entries? What is the format of such an entry? What do we learn about the history and historiography of (ancient) mathematics? Is it possible to say something about the readers and possible uses of these biographical entries? In my talk I will try to explore this set of questions.