Printing scholarship

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

May 12th, 2016 – 9:30 am to 5:30 pm

In continuity with the previous session, the session will explore how we can approach the status of a field of inquiry through the way in which writings are printed, and the various media used for the circulation of knowledge.

Henrik Kragh Sørensen
, Appropriating role models for the mathematical profession: Biographies in the American Mathematical Monthly around 1900
Karine Chemla, Publishing on the history of mathematics at the end of the 18th and in the 19th century in France
ZHOU Xiaohan Célestin, For whom were mathematics works written? –Examining the issue from the perspective of printing mathematics in the Ming Dynasty/ –Examining mathematics in the Ming dynasty from the perspective of printing. 数学著作写给谁?——印刷视角检视下的明代数学.

Programme  pdf version

Henrik Kragh Sørensen (Aarhus University, Denmark)
Appropriating role models for the mathematical profession: Biographies in the American Mathematical Monthly around 1900
Abstract – During the decades around 1900, American mathematics underwent monumental developments that took it from a provincial position at the fringes of the mathematical community into a position from which it could compare to other nations and at some point come to dominate global mathematics. At that time, institutions were devised and shaped to promote mathematical research and instruction, and an intriguing group of individuals were moulded into the first generation of really professional American mathematicians.
In this talk, I propose to analyse the writing of history of mathematics — in this particular case the biography of mathematicians — as situated in a particular discourse of professionalization in the local settings of American mathematics around 1900. In this respect, the analysis is based on an adaptation of the meta-biographical methodology employed by Nicolaas Rupke to bring forth the “many Humboldts” appropriated for different (German) socio-political contexts (Rupke, 2008). Rupke’s approach was, however, a longitudinal one devoted to appropriations of one individual at different times over a period of almost 200 years. Here, focus will be much narrower in geographical and temporal terms, yet the subjects of the biographies will be more varied.
The talk seeks to analyse the interplay between the appropriation of past mathematicians and the shaping of a new profession of mathematicians in a local context. It first provides a brief overview of the biographical genre in the nineteenth century as it pertains to mathematics in order to also briefly address the relations between studying biographies of mathematicians and history of mathematics. It then paints a sketch of American mathematics around 1900, by drawing on biographies from the American Mathematical Monthly. This leads into three topical case studies devoted to detailed analyses of biographies published in the American Mathematical Monthly between the inception of the journal in 1894 and 1904 when the editorial line changed to devote much less attention to biographies.

Karine Chemla (ERC Project SAW & SPHERE – CNRS &  Université Paris Diderot)
Publishing on the history of mathematics at the end of the 18th and in the 19th century in France
Abstract – This presentation will approach the history of the history of mathematics (especially ancient mathematics) in France at the end of the 18th century and the 19th century from the viewpoint of where and how writings devoted to this topic were published, and which form they took. It will also address the issues of the identity of the authors, their readership, and the relationship between context of publication and approach to history of mathematics.

ZHOU Xiaohan Célestin (ERC Project SAW & SPHERE)
Mathematical knowledge and the books in which it was printed–Examining mathematics in the Ming dynasty (1368-1644 CE) from the perspective of printing
Abstract – Modern studies on the history of mathematics in China have mainly concentrated on assessing the “level” of mathematical knowledge at the time. As a result, this period has generally been regarded as a “declining phase” in the “development of mathematics”. This evaluation has been challenged in the last few decades. Some scholars have called for re-examining the mathematics in this period from the perspective of the practical functions it had at the time. New approaches were accordingly adopted since then. However, “the aim of assessing” still haunts these historians. We suggest that to some extent we need to set this aim aside Examining the mathematics in the milieus in which they were practised and restoring their original existence appear as two issues that need to be addressed. From this point of view, we not only need to study the mathematical texts, but we must also consider the material features of the writings which recorded these bodies of knowledge. This talk will set the writing and publishing of mathematical works against the backdrop of the flourishing printing activities in the Ming dynasty, to address the issues of for whom these mathematical works were produced, the cost of printing, the tactics the works used to persuade people to learn and purchase the book, the author’s role in the progress of publishing, the inheritance (or “plagiarism”) of knowledge and the anti-counterfeiting of the printing, etc.