Histoire et philosophie des mathématiques – 12 mai 2020

Organisation : Karine Chemla
Université de Paris (Paris Diderot), Bâtiment Condorcet
de 9h30 à 13h – salle 371A-Klein – Plan et accès ici.

Mathematics and Mathematicians from USSR in international contexts

Christopher Hollings (Oxford University)
Meeting under the integral sign? The Oslo Congress of Mathematicians on the eve of the Second World War

Abstract – Oral communication, and congresses in particular, remain a crucial element within mathematical communication – even in the current age of electronic mail. Indeed, congresses and meetings serve many more purposes than simply communicating information about recent
mathematical research, and this has always been the case, with each particular historical period setting different priorities. The present talk is drawn from a book, recently completed with Reinhard Siegmund-Schultze, which focuses upon and stresses the historically unique character of the Oslo International Congress of Mathematicians of 1936. This congress was the only one on this level to be held during the period of the Nazi regime in Germany (1933–1945) and after the wave of emigrations from it. In this talk, I will survey the differences between the goals of the various participants in the congress, most particularly the Norwegian organisers, and the Nazi-led German delegation. I will consider also the background to the absence of the proposed Soviet and Italian delegations. If time permits, I will also go into the mathematical dimension of the Oslo congress, this being the conference at which the Fields Medals were awarded for the first time. Overall, the Oslo congress may be used as a lens through which to view the state of the art of mathematics in the mid-1930s.

Sophie Coeuré (Université de Paris (Paris Diderot), délégation CNRS au laboratoire SPHERE)
The international mathematical community in the 1970s: the litmus test of Soviet political repression

Abstract – The presentation will be based on previous researches on political and cultural flows between France and USSR, and on recent archival explorations and oral interviews in Moscow and Paris. It aims to confront the idea and practices of an international mathematical community with the issue of political repression and dissent in USSR at the turning point of the 1970s, by focusing on the connections and contacts after the end of Stalinist ideological closure and physical cut-out. Firstly, I will consider the specificity of research in mathematics within the scope of general scientific policies at the beginning of the 1970s: discourses about research and political goals, concrete forms and obstacles to relationships between academic institutions and scientists. I will discuss the question of dissymmetric perceptions and acceptations of the politicization and state control of mathematics. Then I will put forward the case study of the controversy raised by the arrest and imprisonment in psychiatric hospitals of Leonid Plyushch and Yuri Shikanovich in 1974, leading to the creation of an International Committee of mathematicians for their defense. By analyzing the actions, individual choices and argumentations – both political and scientific – at national and international levels, with a focus on the East-West encounters at the Vancouver International Congress of mathematicians, I will raise the broader question of the intersections between three universalisms: socialism / human rights values / mathematics as pure and apolitical language and community.