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Accueil > Archives > Séminaires des années précédentes > Séminaires 2017-2018 : archives > Histoire et philosophie des mathématiques 2017–2018

Axe Histoire et philosophie des mathématiques

Histoire et philosophie des mathématiques 2017–2018


Le séminaire d’histoire et de philosophie des mathématiques est le point de rencontre des différents axes de l’Unité travaillant autour des mathématiques. Il entend favoriser le dialogue entre philosophes et historiens en prenant soin de toujours revenir aux sources textuelles - les orateurs sont vivement encouragés à fournir les documents permettant aux participants d’y accéder.

Coordination : Simon Decaens, Emmylou Haffner, Eleonora Sammarchi, (Univ. Paris Diderot & SPHERE)

PROGRAMME 2017-2018

Les séances ont toujours lieu à l’Université Paris Diderot, le lundi, 9:30–17:00, en salle Klimt, 366A*.
Université Paris Diderot, bâtiment Condorcet, 4, rue Elsa Morante, 75013 Paris – plan d’accès.

NB : la journée du 19 mars se tiendra en salle 146A du bâtiment Buffon

Date Thème Organisation
9/10/2017 Pratiques mathématiques en astronomie K. Chemla & A. Keller
13/11 Algèbre et géométrie. Invités : J. Gray, P. Nabonnand, A. Brigaglia E. Haffner & N. Michel
4 au 7/12 Practices of Mathematical Reasoning C. Proust & al.
15/01/2018 Contextes d’enseignement et démonstration mathématique C. Proust
12/02/2018 Dualité S.Decaens
19/03 Adrien-Marie Legendre K. Chemla
9/04 Algèbre et arithmétique M. Houg
14/05 Proportions et rapports S. Rommevaux-Tani, A. Malet
4/06 Géométrie et calcul N. Michel

9 octobre 2017
Mathematical Practices in Astronomy


  • A. J. Misra (Tamas, Observatoire de Paris)
    The computational procedures in reconstructing the Sine tables of Amṛtalaharī of Nityānanda.
    The Amṛtalaharī (or perhaps, the Kheṭakṛti) of Nityānanda is an undated Sanskrit manuscript found in the collection of the University of Tokyo discovered by Prof. Pingree. This manuscript contains astronomical tables for computing calendrical elements (like tithis, nakṣatras, yogas), right and oblique ascensions tables of the zodiacal signs, the planetary equation tables and mean motion tables. In addition to this, it also includes a Sine table (sinus totus of 60), solar declination table (maximum obliquity of 24 ;0,0), lunar latitude table, and three shadow-length tables for gnomons of height 7, 12, and 60 digits. This last set of tables are collectively presented for arguments one to ninety degrees or arc over three folia. In this talk, I discuss the mathematical techniques and generative algorithms in recomputing the Sine table within the context of its relation with the other tables in this collection. .

10:45-11:00 pause


  • Jiang-Ping “Jeff” Chen (StCloud State University)
    The “First” Chinese Treatise in Trigonometry, Its Latin Sources, and the Algebraic Techniques.
    The calendar reform at the end of Ming China (1368-1644) produced many “firsts” in the efforts. The Jesuits involved and their Chinese collaborators faced many challenges to adapt/collate/translate certain existing European treatises into Chinese : coining new terms, introducing foreign concepts, and working with extreme time constraints, to name a few. Included among the products is the “first” trigonometric treatise in China, 大測 Dace (Grand Measure), which was presented to the court in 1631. This work establishes the paradigm of the principles for constructing trigonometric tables in China and inspires many Chinese trigonometric treatises in the centuries that followed.

12:15-13:30 pause déjeuner


  • Yiwen Zhu (Zongshan Univ.)
    Writing Mathematics in Thirteenth Century China----The Case Study of Qin Jiushao’s Writing on the Procedure for great inference.
    By contrast with early mathematical documents, a conspicuous feature of writing mathematics in thirteenth century China was the use of diagrams, in which mathematical procedures carried out with counting rods were written down. However, the reasons behind this historical phenomenon are still not clear. This talk aims at shedding light on this issue based on the case study of Qin Jiushao’s秦九韶(1208-1261) writing on the Procedure for great inference with all numbers 大衍總數術, i.e. the so-called Chinese Remainder Theorem.
    In Qin Jiushao’s famous monograph, Mathematical Book in Nine Chapters (Shushu jiuzhang, 數書九章, completed in 1247), the Procedure for great inference with all numbers was used in the first nine problems. But among them only the first problem about Book of Changes contained the graphic explanation of the Procedure for great inference looking for one 大衍求一術, i.e a method for solving linear congruences, that is the core of Procedure for great inference with all numbers. On the other hand, in the twelfth problem about calendric calculations there was no Procedure for great inference with all numbers, but the Procedure for great inference looking for one was written down with diagrams. Hence, I will focus on the first and the twelfth problems. By analyzing these two problems, I find that their modes of using diagrams to write the procedure Procedure for great inference looking for one are different : in the first problem, diagrams are written being intertwined with texts, and in the twelfth problem diagrams are written with lines. Relying on the study of modern historian of mathematics Li Jimin李繼閔(1938-1993), we know the twelfth problem could be real, and the first problem was artificial. Therefore, the writing mode in the twelfth problem could imply Qin Jiushao borrowed the procedure from others, and the writing mode in the first problem implies it was Qin’s own procedure.
    In Qin Jiushao’s preface and the twelfth problem, he stated the Procedure for great inference looking for one came from calendric calculations, but astronomers used it as Fangcheng procedure, i.e. a method for solving liner equations. We know that a Fangcheng procedure was recorded in mathematical books as early as in the Nine Chapters on Mathematical Procedures (Jiuzhang suanshu九章筭術). In order to reveal how Procedure for great inference looking for one and Fangcheng procedure are connected, I make an assumption about the astronomical Fangcheng procedure. From this point of view, we will see how Qin Jiushao improved this old Fangcheng and made it into Procedure for great inference looking for one.
    The necessity of using diagrams could be understood in Qin Jiushao’s classification of mathematical knowledge. According to this classification, mathematics was divided into two parts : inner procedures and outer procedures. Outer procedures, like in the Nine Chapters on Mathematical Procedures, were written down in Chinese characters, and carried out with counting rods. Inner procedures were not recorded. Therefore, when an inner procedure was written, the best way was to use counting diagrams and present the whole process using counting rods. This was exactly what happened in Procedure for great inference as presented in the second problem.

13 novembre 2017
Algèbre et Géométrie

  • Jeremy Gray (Open University & Warwick University)
    Brill and Noether : Cayley—Bacharach, Riemann—Roch.
    In the second half of the 19th century mathematicians began to look for theorems about algebraic curves with complicated singularities. Part of this activity was intended to extend the work of Plücker, part of it was meant to rederive Riemann’s ideas in the setting of plane algebraic curves. As this talk will explain : what is geometry, what is algebra, what is assumed, and what is proved was never fully agreed.
  • Philippe Nabonnand (LHSP - AHP, Univ. de Lorraine)
    La théorie des jets de von Staudt — l’algèbre surgit de la géométrie.
  • Aldo Brigaglia
    The young Segre and the introduction of hyperspatial geometry in Italian algebraic geometry.
    Thanks to Klein and Lie, the concept of abstract (i. e. multidimensional) geometry made great progress, and (after Segre) it became an ordinary tool for the contemporary Italian geometers. Indeed nothing is more fertile than the multiplication of our intuitive powers operated by this principle : it is as if besides the mortal eyes with which we examine a figure, we have thousands of spiritual eyes to observe its manifold transfigurations ; all this while the unity of the object shines in our enriched reason, and it enables us to easily go from one form to another. These words of Federigo Enriques (written in 1922, only two years before Segre’s death) are important to understand the role played by Segre in introducing a more abstract (but not less intuitive) point of view in algebraic geometry. In my talk I will try to give an overview of Segre’s first papers and how, starting with his dissertation, he faced the problem of developing a complete theory of the projective geometry of hyperspaces by using some of the most important algebraic results that Weierstrass, Kronecker and Frobenius had obtained and applying them to the purely geometric interests favoured by the Italian school.

4 au 7 décembre 2017
Practices of Mathematical Reasoning
Organisation : Karine Chemla, Matthieu Husson, Agathe Keller & Christine Proust

  • Atelier de quatre jours sur les « Pratiques de raisonnement mathématique ». La discussion sera une continuation des recherches sur la diversité du raisonnement mathématique, initiée dans le cadre du projet SAW (2011-2016). Son but est de décrire une variété de pratiques de raisonnement mathématique dans un large éventail de documents mathématiques, astronomiques et administratifs, provenant de diverses provenances et périodes de temps. Les participants analyseront les composantes discursives du raisonnement, comme la terminologie, ainsi que des éléments non discursifs tels que, par exemple, des diagrammes, des organisations spatiales, des formats tabulaires ou des notations. L’atelier vise à préparer un livre collectif et consistera en la présentation par les auteurs de leurs contributions.

– PROGRAMME (susceptible de modifications) : lundi 4/12, mardi 5/12, mercredi 6/12, jeudi 7/12

lundi 4/12
Comparing modalities of reasoning in mathematical contexts and in other contexts
Chair : Karine Chemla
9:30 – 13:00, salle Klimt, 366A

  • Robert Middeke Conlin (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin, Deutschland)
    Tabular administrative texts as a reflection of mathematical practice.
    Comm. : Matthieu Husson (CNRS, SYRTE-Observatoire de Paris, France)

  • Agathe Keller (SPHERE – CNRS & Université Paris Diderot, France)
    Reasoning on Sines : Pṛthūdaka’s commentary on Brahmagupta’s verses on Sines in the Brāhmasphuṭasiddhānta (BSS.21.17-23).
    Comm. : Zheng Fanglei (IHNS, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China)

14:00 – 15:30, salle Klimt, 366A

  • QU Anjing (Northwest University, Xi’an, China

    Two cases of reasoning in Chinese mathematical astronomy.

    Comm. : Karine Chemla

16:00 – 17:30 Conférence exceptionelle

  • Harold Edwards (New York University)
    Galois’s (Almost) Constructive Presentation of Galois Theory.
mardi 5/12
Role of diagrams and other artefacts in reasoning
Chair : Christine Proust
9:30 – 12:30, salle L. Valentin, 454A

  • Adeline Reynaud (SPHERE – CNRS & Université Paris Diderot, France)
    What diagrams tell us about practices of mathematical reasoning in Old-Babylonian Mesopotamia : the example of the approximation procedure in YBC 8633.

    Commentator : Agathe Keller

  • Matthieu Husson (CNRS, PSL-SYRTE-Observatoire de Paris)
    Multifaceted mathematical reasoning in Jean des Murs’ De moventibus et motis (1343).

    Comm. : Christine Proust

14:00 – 15:30, salle Mondrian, 646A

  • ZHOU Xiaohan (SPHERE – CNRS & Université Paris Diderot, France) :
    Methods using duan ( 段 segment [of diagram]) in Yang Hui’s 楊輝 (fl. 13th century) works.

    Commentator : Adeline Reynaud
mercredi 6/12
Mixing cultures of reasoning
Chair : Matthieu Husson
9:30 – 13:00, salle Klimt, 366A

  • Chen Jiang-Ping Jeff (St Cloud State University, MN, USA and SPHERE)

    Persuasion and Refutation in Fangcheng lun–A Case Study of the Practices of Reasoning in a 17th-century Chinese Algebraic Treatise.

    Comm. : David Rabouin
  • LI Liang (Beijing Institute for the History of Natural Science)

    The perceptions of Western and Islamic terminology for astronomical tables in early modern China.

    Comm. : Robert Middeke-Conlin

14:00 – 15:30 pm, salle Klimt, 366A

  • Pascal Crozet (SPHERE – CNRS & Université Paris Diderot, France)

    La démonstration algébrique chez Abū Kāmil.

    Commentator : Jeff Chen
jeudi 7/12
Meaning of steps and accounting for the correctness of procedures
Chair : Agathe Keller
9:30 – 13:00, salle Klimt, 366A

  • Christine Proust (SPHERE – CNRS & Université Paris Diderot, France)

    Reasoning running through a series of problems. An analysis of some procedure texts from Mesopotamia, early second millennium BCE.

    Comm. : Pascal Crozet

  • ZHENG Fanglei (Fudan University, Shanghai, China)

    Reasoning with the participation of unknowns before they are found-demonstrative texts in Al-Khwarizmi’s Algebra and Nemorarius’ De numeris datis.

    Comm. : Matthieu Husson

14:00 – 15:30, salle Klimt, 366A

  • Karine Chemla (SPHERE – CNRS & Université Paris Diderot, France) & ZHU Yiwen (Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, China)

    Algorithms carrying out derivations (tui‘) versus Algorithms for looking for (qiu). On the first entry of Mathematical Procedures for the Five Canons.

    Comm. : A.J. Misra


  • Chemla, Karine, & ZHU, Yiwen
    Algorithms carrying out derivations (tui) versus Algorithms for looking for (qiu). On the first entry of Mathematical Procedures for the Five Canons
    In Mathematical Procedures for the Five Canons, Zhen Luan 甄鸞 (fl. ca. 570) comments on chosen passages from the Confucian canonical literature. To do this, his annotations take the forms of “methods (fa 法)”. In his own words, some of these “methods” aim at “deriving” (tui 推) a result, whereas others aim at “looking for (qiu 求)” it. How can we interpret this difference ? How does this difference relate to commentators’ use of it in the context of other mathematical canons ? These are some of the issues that we address in this article. In 656, Li Chunfeng 李淳風 (602-670) and his colleagues completed a subcommentary on Mathematical Procedures for the Five Canons, in the context of editing and annotating canonical literature in mathematics. How did they comment on Zhen Luan’s mathematical procedures depending on whether they were “deriving” or “looking for” a result ? This will be the second issue that this article deals with.
  • CHEN, Jiangping Jeff
    Persuasion and Refutation in Fangcheng lun –A Case Study of the Practices of Reasoning in a 17th-century Chinese Algebraic Treatise
    The issue of mathematical reasoning in late imperial China has been a stimulating topic in the history of Chinese mathematics. The publication of Jihe yuanben 幾何原本, the Chinese translation of the first six books of Euclid’s Elements in 1607, upended the practice of excluding reasoning in the mathematical works, a peculiar tradition for at least the previous two centuries. In comparison, by the second half of the 17th century, almost all mathematical treatises in China contain explanatory texts as reasoning in the main text. Many geometric texts followed the style in Jihe yuanben of presenting mathematical properties in postulates, definitions, statement of theorems, and proofs. Geometry as a mathematical subject in 17th-century China was considered of “Western” origin. The algebra or computational methods, on the other hand, were believed to be “Chinese” and therefore did not follow the geometric model in terms of presenting arguments and reasoning. This article focuses on the practice of presenting reasoning in an algebraic work Fangcheng lun 方程論 (On Measuring through Juxtaposition), composed in 1670s by one of the most prolific mathematicians in Qing China (1644-1911), Mei Wending 梅文鼎 (1633-1722). The subject matter is equivalent to modern-day systems of linear equations and Gaussian eliminations in linear algebra. In traditional treatises composed during Ming China (1368-1644), Fangcheng problems were classified according to the number of unknowns involved ; and the corrected answers were found by applying two sets of operations, the selection of which might depend on the number of unknowns or the positions of equations being operated on. The scarcity of explanation made it impossible to make sense of the rules governing operations. Instead of following the practice in the traditional texts, Mei re-categorizes the Fangcheng problems according to the signs of the coefficients in the initial setting. He only utilizes one set of operations and ignores the other to solve all the problems, supplementing rules and ample explanation to legitimize his “innovations.” Mei’s narratives and texts of explication are meant to persuade his contemporaries that his non-conventional approach can solve “all” solvable Fangcheng problems. Moreover Mei refutes certain incorrect and un-explicated practices followed by the Ming scholars and his contemporaries. To further systemize the treatment of Fangcheng problems, Mei addresses the fundamentals of setting up positive and negative numbers at each stage of the solution process, discusses the numbers of “computations” needed for each kind of generic problems before achieving the correct answer and various scenarios which result in fewer steps, and clarifies the applicability of Fangcheng solution to other genres of problems, as well as its limitation. Well aware of the fact that his innovative tactics deviate from the existing traditional practice, Mei appeals to the antiquity through the notion of suanli 算理 (Principles of Mathematics) to promote his treatment and ultimately defy the tradition. His explanatory texts and narratives are to illuminate the hidden suanli in his prescribed operation and rules. Once his system of solving Fangcheng problems is “shown” to conform to suanli, it must be, Mei contends, compatible with or could have been the approach in antiquity. Being included in the compendium resulted from the imperial editorial project to include all things mathematics in the early 18th century, Essence of Numbers and their Principles, Imperially Composed (Yuzhi shuli jingyun 御製數理精蘊), and consequently becoming court-sanctioned, Mei’s classification and rules of operations were followed by Qing mathematicians of the next generations and effectively elevated to be the orthodox approach to solve Fangcheng problems in the 18th and 19th century in China.
  • Crozet, Pascal
    La démonstration algébrique chez Abū Kāmil.
    Déjà présente en filigrane dans l’oeuvre d’al-Khwārizmī, la distinction entre démonstration géométrique et démonstration algébrique se fait beaucoup plus nette et explicite chez son successeur Abū Kāmil.
    L’ensemble des problèmes résolus dans son Algèbre montre en effet une grande variété de méthodes qui montre souvent une volonté nette de s’affranchir de la tutelle de la géométrie.
    Ce qu’Abū Kāmil nomme “démonstration par l’indication”, et qu’il oppose explicitement à la démonstration géométrique, n’en est que l’un des exemples. En s’appuyant sur l’étude de quelques problèmes, cette communication voudrait précisément rendre compte de ces premiers développements au sein d’une discipline alors en plein essor.
  • Edwards, Harold – an exceptional lecture
    Galois’s (Almost) Constructive Presentation of Galois Theory.
    The aggressively non-constructive approach that dominated pure mathematics, particularly algebra, in the late 19th century was inspired in part by what was thought to be Galois’ very abstract approach and in part by the development of abstract group theory. Galois was writing well before this taste for the abstract had developed, however, and a serious reading of Galois’s Premier Mémoire, particularly the part that precedes his Proposition I, shows that the underlying ideas were quite algorithmic and constructive (except that the algorithms were conceptual rather than practical). The core idea is the construction of a splitting field of a given polynomial. Galois provides such a construction, but it is based on the assumption that a splitting field exists ! The resulting development of the theory is therefore flawed from a foundational point of view—the gap was filled by Kronecker a few decades later—but this in no way diminishes the importance of the powerful conceptual algorithms the Premier Mémoire provided.
  • Husson, Matthieu
    Multifaceted mathematical reasoning in Jean des Murs De moventibus et motis (1343)
    Reasoning is a central concern in many mathematical traditions and it is expressed in various sources reflecting different practices. When we address mathematical reasoning in mathematical sciences, taken broadly, the diversity of mathematical reasoning becomes greater in relation to the variety of contexts in which those reasonings were shaped. Sometimes actors use the possibility of weaving different levels of reading of the same reasoning according to the rhetorical form chosen to express it.
    Jean des Murs’ De moventibus et motis is a clear instance for this. The first part of the fourth book of the Quadripartitum numerorum is a text known for several reasons in the historiography. A chapter on spirals, Archimedean in flavor, attracted Marshall Clagett’s attention. Remarks in it about incommensurability and celestial motions were put in relation with similar arguments that Nicole Oresme made later. Finally, historians of natural philosophy analysed Jean des Murs’ discussion of Bradwardine’s conclusion on the ratio between the velocities of mobiles.
    Our aim in this paper is to examine the mathematical reasoning expressed in the De moventibus et motis and to show how Jean des Murs uses the possibility of the specific form he chooses for his text to extend its core mathematical meaning in the direction of astronomy, cosmology and natural philosophy.
  • JU, Shi’er & ZHANG, Yijie
    Two Approaches to Geyuan Procedure.
    Based on the analysis of Liu Hui’s 劉徽 (fl. 263) Geyuan procedure (that is, a method to cut a circle into pieces and calculate the value of π), this article discusses two approaches to the study of mathematical argumentations in the mathematical texts of ancient China. One approach is to interpret Liu Hui’s procedure in its historical local context. We thus analyze the background knowledge Liu Hui relied on when he commented on the Nine Chapters on Mathematical Procedures, and illuminate the concepts and methods he used to establish this procedure. Therefore, this article argues that the circles and the squares Liu Hui dealt with in the Geyuan procedure were empirical objects. Moreover, relying on the empirical finite method to cut a circle, Liu Hui proves the area formula of a circle, and writes the text in which the general argumentation theory works, instead of using deductive inference, which is based on the infinitesimal analysis. Another approach is to extract argumentations in the Geyuan procedure within the framework of modern mathematics. We show some scholarly works on the Geyuan procedure using this approach, and reveal their problems as follows : the extracted argumentations does not correspond to the original texts, the argumentations are incomplete, and lack of necessary steps and basic theories. These problems originate from using modern mathematics to interpret ancient texts, and thus mistakenly interpret Liu Hui’s method. By the comparison between the two approaches, this article suggests that to interpret ancient texts by modern mathematics is not a good approach to the study of ancient argumentations. However, to interpret ancient texts in its historical local context could avoid some problems caused by the second approach, and offer an open viewpoint about ancient argumentations.
  • Keller, Agathe
    Reasoning on Sines : Pṛthūdaka’s commentary on Brahmagupta’s verses on Sines in the
    Brāhmasphuṭasiddhānta (BSS.21.17-23).
    The aim of this paper, beyond its study of a specific case, is to raise a certain number of questions which spring from the existence of reasonings and modes of justification in Sanskrit mathematical and astral sources. What reasonings are used to prove a rule ? Do all reasonings have such an aim ? Are modes of justification different in mathematics and astral science ? In the following, a famous reasoning found in Sanskrit literature- the one used to both construct and justify tabulated values of Sines and associated chord portions- will be studied. Paradoxically, if such reasonings are often mentioned in the literature on the history of trigonometry, they rarely have been studied for what they obviously are, a kind of ‘proof’, in the sense that they try to provide a grounding of why such values are used. This paper focuses on the explanations (vāsanā) and ‘proofs’ (upapanna) Pṛthūdaka (ca. 870) provides while commenting on verses 17-23 of the Chapter on the Sphere (golādhyāya, Chapter 21) in Brahmagupta’s in Brahmagupta’s ‘Theoretical Treatise of Astral Science of the True Brāhma [school]’ Brāhmasphuṭasiddhānta (628). In these verses, Brahmagupta returns to the values he had given earlier for Sines, to provide a derivation and an extension of this list. Pṛthūdaka’s reasonings will be studied and characterised before being compared cursorily with the kind of ‘explanations’ (bearing the same name), that Pṛthūdaka provides while commenting on Brahmagupta’s mathematical rules, as they appear in the mathematical chapter (gaṇitādhyāya, Chapter 12) of the same treatise.
  • LI, Liang
    The perceptions of Western and Islamic terminology for astronomical tables in early modern China
    Terminology opens a window on actors’ understanding of specific domains and on the kind of reasoning they build within them. The transformation attested to in the astronomical terminologies that relate to different calendrical systems in China reveals changes in the perceptions of astronomical computations and of their relations to geometry. The traditional Chinese astronomy had its own terminological system for different calendrical systems. When the Islamic astronomical tables were introduced and adopted in early modern China, some new terms were created. Even though the Chinese users could operate these tables without the obstacle of the unfamiliar terms, they didn’t have a clear understanding of these terms and the theories behind them. After Western astronomical tables were transmitted to China, some scholars tried to establish a connection and made an analogy between the traditional Chinese terms and the new Western terms. In addition, they sought to understand the obscure Islamic terms with the help of Western astronomical theories, when they obtained more grounding geometrical knowledge.
  • Middeke-Conlin, Robert
    Tabular administrative texts as a reflection of mathematical practice
    By the Old Babylonian period, that is, the early second millennium BCE in Southern Iraq, some administrations begin to produce texts in a tabular format, instead of a more common prosaic format. This recordkeeping practice, which is sporadically witnessed since the Early Dynastic Period in Mesopotamia (early- to mid-third millennium BCE), offers a significant, although temporary, improvement in data presentation. At the same time, numerous Old Babylonian mathematical texts take on a tabular format as well. Can any link be made between these two distinct varieties of texts ?
    This paper attempts to answer this question by examining both tables and tabular lists in the administrative record, as well as mathematical texts that take on or present a tabular format. It asks, “how did the tabular texts from the Old Babylonian mathematical tradition portray mathematical reasoning ?”, “do the Old Babylonian tabular economic texts maintain a tabular format to express mathematical reasoning ?”, and finally, “is mathematical reasoning in the economic texts expressed in a similar manner as in the mathematical texts ?”
  • Proust, Christine
    Reasoning running through a series of problems. An analysis of some procedure texts from Mesopotamia, early second millennium BCE
    Mathematical cuneiform problems are generally composed of a statement followed by a procedure, which, in turn, is composed of a succession of steps. The meaning of the whole procedure emerges from the meaning of each step. However, the problems rarely appear isolated. Rather, most often, they belong to sets of problems gathered in one clay tablet. Sometimes, the meaning of the procedure cannot be detected at the scale of one individual problem, but it can be understood by considering the whole set of problems it belongs to. This paper focuses on a catalog of 31 problems dated to the Old Babylonian period (early second millennium BCE), and two procedure texts which make clear the steps of the algorithm solving some of these problems. The following issues will be discussed. What is the scale of the reasoning ? That is, is it that of the individual problems, that of groups of problems, or that of the whole series of the 31 problems, or finally is it a combination of these scales ? What is the meaning of the steps in the procedures ? Is this meaning transparent ? Some problems seem very similar, and differ only on tiny details. What is the meaning of these tiny differences ? What do they tell us about the reasoning ?
  • Reynaud, Adeline
    What diagrams tell us about practices of mathematical reasoning in Old-Babylonian Mesopotamia : the example of the approximation procedure in YBC 8633
    On a fairly large number of Old-Babylonian clay tablets containing the statement and the resolution of mathematical problems, one or more diagrams have been drawn in relation to the discursive text. The aim of this contribution is to shed light on the variety of roles that may be assigned to these visual aids, and to illustrate the way in which their observation can help us to understand some of the mathematical practices linked to the production of the documents in which they are contained. The example of an Old-Babylonian (ca. 2004-1595 BCE) tablet of unknown provenience that is now stored in the Yale Babylonian Collection in New Haven and contains an approximate determination of the area of an isosceles triangle, YBC 8633, will enable us to explore various aspects of this isssue : by describing minutely the diagram drawn on this tablet and confronting it to the discursive text, we will analyze to what extent it may have been used as a working tool by the author and the readers of the tablet, how it may have served the working out of the problem, and what it reveals on reasoning practices based on impossible configurations.
  • QU, Anjing
    Two cases of reasoning in Chinese mathematical astronomy.
    In this talk I will discuss a piece of text in which we can find how people in Han dynasty (1th century) to determine the constant of tropical year by a mathematical reasoning. And according to a very short message in Gengwu epoch calendar (1220), we may find how Yelv Chuchai (1190-1244) reasoned the size of Earth.
  • ZHENG, Fanglei
    Reasoning with the participation of unknowns before they are found-demonstrative texts in Al-Khwarizmi’s Algebra and Nemorarius’ De numeris datis.
    Problems of finding numbers are the subject of many mathematical works of Arabic and Latin authors. In these works, the solutions of problems are usually presented as a series of (instructions of) calculations starting from the known numbers, which we call “algorithms”. Nevertheless, besides the algorithm, the authors often write down some texts, apparently reasoning, on the problem they are solving. Such discourses could be regarded as “algebraic transformations”, just like the way they used to be interpreted. However, this way of interpretation has little help for us to understand what role the authors want the reasoning discourse to play in the exposition of a problem and the importance of it in the history of mathematical reasoning.
    I shall take examples from two classical works—Al-Khwarizmi’s Algebra and Jordanus Nemorarius’ De numeris datis— to show how the two mathematicians both take the unknowns into the reasoning, though develop it in different ways. By observations of details, especially in the comparison of the reasoning and the algorithm of a problem, I shall argue that the reasoning discourses in these two works demonstrate rather how the solution (algorithm) is found than why it is correct. Finally, by the comparison of its function to the demonstration part in a problem presented in Greek arithmetical tradition, I shall open the question whether we can regard these reasoning discourses in question as a sort of mathematical proof.
  • ZHOU, Xiaohan
    Methods using duan ( 段 segment [of diagram]) in Yang Hui’s 楊輝 (fl. 13th century) works
    In the third century, in Liu Hui’s 劉徽 commentaries on The Nine Chapters of Mathematical Procedures 九章算術, the commentator has used the rearrangement of diagrams (tu 圖), in the form of material objects (Chemla 2010), to carry out reasoning related to the mathematical methods contained in the book. This use of diagrams obeys a rule, to which modern scholars usually refer as "out-in principle" (churu xiangbu 出入相補原理). In the 12th and the 13th centuries, another term, that is, duan (段 segments [of diagram]), appears in several works presenting reasoning about procedures. The way of using duan seems to derive from the use of tu in Liu Hui’s commentaries. Even though Liu Yi’s 劉益 work is not extant, his texts or diagrams that involve duan are quoted in Yang Hui’s works. In this paper, I will address the use of duan in Yang Hui’s Xiangjie jiuzhang sauna (detailed Explanations of the Nine Chapters on Mathematical Methods 詳解九章算法 1261 C.E.) and Tianmu bilei chengchu jiefa (Quick Methods for Multiplication and Division [for the Surfaces of] the Fields and Analogies 田畝比類乘除捷法 1275 C.E.), to examine where and how duan is used in the procedures. I will also examine how we can interpret the gou gu shengbian shisanming tu (勾股生變十三名圖 Table of the thirteen items which the base and height of a right triangle generate and into which they change). Scholars have noticed the existence of a method related to duan and commonly called yanduan (演段 deducing the segment). They have carried out research on it at different periods. In addition to reexamining this method, I will also focus on the concept and operation of bianduan (變段 changing the segment), to disclose the difference between the two in processes of reasoning with respect to mathematical methods.

15 janvier 2018, 9:30–15:00
Contextes d’enseignement et démonstration mathématique

  • Sabine Rommevaux-Tani (CNRS, SPHERE)
    Quelques exemples de l’influence du mode d’enseignement dans les universités médiévales sur le style des démonstrations mathématiques.
  • Jeff Chen (Saint-Cloud State University, SPHERE)
    Rigueur mathématique dans certains manuels anglais de trigonométrie au XIXe siècle, leurs traductions chinoises et les réponses à un modèle d’examen par des étudiants chinois.
  • Marion Cousin (Institut d’Asie Orientale de Lyon) - à confirmer
    Le rôle des manuels de l’ère Meiji dans la formalisation des démonstrations géométriques au Japon.
  • Antoni Malet (Université de Barcelone, IEA de Paris & SPHERE)

12 février 2018

Séance organisée par S. Decaens

  • 9:30–9:45
    Ralf Krömer,
  • 9:45–10:45
    Emmylou Haffner (Bergische Universität Wuppertal & SPHERE)
    Des modules aux treillis : la dualité comme fil rouge pour l’invention de la théorie des Dualgruppen par Dedekind.
  • 11:15–12:15
    Simon Decaens (Université Paris 8 & SPHERE)
    Dualités dans le Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society dans les années 1930.
  • 13:30–14:30
    Ralf Krömer (Bergische Universität Wuppertal)
    Dualités au 20e siècle : le rôle de la dualité de Pontrjagin.

19 mars 2018
Adrien-Marie Legendre

Séance organisée par K. Chemla

Attention : la journée se tiendra en salle 146A du bâtiment Buffon

  • 9:45–11:00
    Dominique Tournès (Université de la Réunion & SPHERE)
    Legendre calculateur.
  • 11:00–11:20 : Pause café
  • 11:20–12:20
    Jenny Boucard (Centre François Viète, Université de Nantes)
    Adrien-Marie Legendre et la théorie des nombres : historiographie et perspectives de recherche
  • 13:45–15:00
    Maarten Bullynck (Université Paris Vincennes)
    Legendre facing Gauss. Divergent careers, fateful encounters


  • Dominique Tournès
    Legendre calculateur
    Dans ses travaux de balistique, de mécanique céleste et d’analyse mathématique, Legendre se montre soucieux d’accompagner ses résultats théoriques de méthodes numériques effectives. Faisant preuve d’une créativité calculatoire peu commune, il estime systématiquement la rapidité de convergence et la précision des méthodes qu’il conçoit, et les met en oeuvre personnellement dans des calculs de tables de grande envergure. L’exposé analysera les techniques numériques qu’il a développées dans divers contextes et s’efforcera de cerner sa spécificité en tant que calculateur.
  • Jenny Boucard
    Adrien-Marie Legendre et la théorie des nombres : historiographie et perspectives de recherche

    Adrien-Marie Legendre (1752-1833) présente son premier mémoire de théorie des nombres, Recherches d’analyse indéterminée, en 1785 à l’Académie des sciences. En 1798 paraît son Essai sur la théorie des nombres qui connaîtra deux autres éditions en 1808 et 1830. Ces traités feront partie des références incontournables pour les géomètres souhaitant se former en théorie des nombres jusque dans les années 1860 au moins. Par ailleurs, Legendre encouragera dans ce même domaine plusieurs géomètres, comme Carl Gustav Jakob et Sophie Germain, dans le premier tiers du xixe siècle. Pourtant, peu de travaux historiques sont consacrés à l’étude des recherches arithmétiques de Legendre, qui est souvent décrit comme opérant une synthèse des travaux du xviiie siècle. Lorsqu’il est évoqué dans les synthèses sur l’histoire de la théorie des nombres, ses publications sont le plus souvent analysées à la lumière de développements ultérieurs, tout particulièrement des concepts et résultats obtenus par Gauss.
    Ici, l’objectif sera tout d’abord de faire un point historiographique sur Legendre et la théorie des nombres. Ensuite, je proposerai une mise en contexte de ses travaux à partir de l’analyse d’un corpus de publications arithmétiques de la période 1750-1850. Enfin, quelques perspectives de recherches nouvelles seront proposées.
  • Maarten Bullynck
    Legendre facing Gauss. Divergent careers, fateful encounters
    For two of his most enduring mathematical endeavours, the law of quadratic reciprocity and the method of least squares, Legendre has to share credit with Gauss. Already during his lifetime, this led to piqued comments and side-remarks, but now the priority disputes between both men have become an integral part of Legendre’s biography. More interesting than the question "Who was first ?", however, is the question "How did Legendre and Gauss, independently, come to similar results ?" Their respective careers are quite different and so are the paths of reading, research and practice that led them to these mathematical results. Contrasting their respective roads to these mathematical results will help to get Legendre’s work in proper focus.

9 avril 2018
Algèbre et arithmétique
Séance organisée par M. Houg

  • 9:00–10:30 : Kenneth Manders (University of Pittsburgh)
    Descartes’ Youthful Mathematical Speculations
  • 10:30–12:00 : Erwan Penchèvre (SPHERE)
    nvariances cartésiennes.
  • 13:30–15:00 : Sébastien Maronne (Institut de Mathématiques de Toulouse)
    Descartes et l’arithmétique dans la Correspondance : avec ou sans méthode ?

14 mai 2018, 9h30-17h00, salle Klimt, 366A

Proportions et rapports


  • Vincenzo di Risi (SPHERE)
    Existence and Construction in the Early Modern Theory of Proportions.
    The talk deals with the Euclidean assumption of the existence of the fourth proportional of any three given magnitudes. We explore the difficulty of this assumption in the Euclidean setting, and a few early modern solutions to them. In particular, we may discuss the work on proportions by Tynemouth, Campano, Tartaglia, Clavius, Borelli, Tacquet, Descales, Viviani, Marchetti, and Mercator. These debates on the existence of the fourth proportional are deeply intertwined with general discussion on existential claims in mathematics, as well as with the first attempts to axiomatize the treatment of irrational magnitudes.


  • Antoni Malet (University of Barcelona, IEA de Paris & SPHERE)
    Sixteenth-century criticism of Euclid’s ideas of ratio and proportionality.
    From Luca Pacioli’s "Sermo" of 1508, to Maurolico’s "Sermo de proportione" (1554) and his "Compendium" of Book V (1567), to Cardano’s Opus novum de proportionibus (1570), to Guidobaldo del Monte “Commentarius” (c. 1600), to mention just the famous names, a number of commentaries and criticisms of Book V of the Elements were written (and most of them printed) throughout the 16th century. My talk will address a few general questions about these tracts. In what measure are they sharing a common perspective in their critical views of Euclid ? Was Euclid defective in the same way for those authors ? Where they suggesting alternative definitions that were similar in some important feature ? Finally, how did they relate to the substantial, theoretical 17th-century criticisms of Borelli, Tacquet, and Wallis ?


  • Shuyuan PAN (SPHERE – CNRS & Université Paris Diderot, France ; Institute for History of Natural Sciences , Chinese Academy of Sciences, China)
    The use and meaning of lü 率 in translating proportion theories introduced from Europe in Late Ming China (1592-1613)
    During the late 16th century and early 17th century, Jesuits, with the help of Chinese literati, introduced proportion theories from Europe into China, as part of the “Western” learning. In Elements of Mathematical Sciences (Jihe yuanben 幾何原本), the Chinese translation of Euclid’s Elements in the version edited and commented upon by Christoph Clavius (1538 1612), as well as in Instructions for calculation in common script (Tongwen suanzhi 同文算指), a collection of arithmetical problems mainly based on Clavius’ Epitome Arithmeticae, related definitions, propositions and algorithms (such as the Rule of Three) were explained and demonstrated in detail. In the two main texts, to indicate the quantities that constitute a ratio or a proportion, a key concept lü 率 was borrowed from ancient Chinese mathematical terminology. How was lü used in these translated texts ? What did it mean in different contexts ? This is the main question that will be addressed in this talk. Firstly, we will sketch the contents of proportion theories in the translated books, and similar or relevant knowledge in Chinese traditional mathematical classics before the Tang dynasty (that is, before the 7th century). We will then address the following issues :
    1) The meaning and practices of lü in several mathematical books from the Song to the Ming dynasties (that is, in our case, between the 11th century and 1592), especially in the algorithm ‘multiplied by the different and divided by the same’ (Yicheng tongchu異乘同除) ;
    2) The concept of lü and its use in the translated texts in the first half of the 17th century, by comparison with its meaning and use in books compiled during the Ming dynasty ;
    3) The relationship between the translated texts and their Latin sources.
    By analyzing Jesuits and Chinese literati’s mathematical understanding of Chinese and European materials and their probable conceptions of translation, we will shed light on why the term lü was adopted in translations at the time.


  • Sabine Rommevaux-Tani (CNRS, SPHERE)
    Une théorie de la mesure des rapports dans le Chilias logarithmorum de Kepler (suite et fin).
    J’ai déjà eu l’occasion dans plusieurs séances de séminaires de présenter, au plus près du texte, la théorie de la mesure des rapports que Kepler met en place pour fonder les logarithmes, en insistant sur l’ancrage médiéval de la théorie. Je souhaiterais y revenir une dernière fois pour en donner les grands principes, au delà des difficultés, voire des erreurs que présente parfois le texte de Kepler, en espérant que cette analyse donnera l’occasion aux spécialistes des mathématiques du XVIIe siècle d’explorer d’autres textes.


  • David Rabouin (CNRS, SPHERE)
    Sur l’« arithmétisation » des proportions à l’âge classique.
    L’âge classique est souvent présenté comme un moment où une conception étendue du nombre aurait permis d’arithmétiser intégralement le concept de proportion et, progressivement, de le supplanter au profit de celui d’opération. Les noms de John Wallis et de Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz sont souvent invoqués comme preuve de cette évolution, voire comme marquant leur point d’achèvement. Dans cet exposé, je voudrais montrer à partir d’une étude des textes de ces auteurs que la chose est loin d’aller de soi et masque la richesse de leurs conceptions et du nombre et des proportions – dont il paraît très exagéré de dire que leur pratique tend à s’en dispenser.


  • Table ronde

4 juin 2018
Géométrie et calcul

  • 9h30-10h30 Nicolas Michel, "La généralité d’un calcul, dans les échanges entre Halphen, Schubert, et Zeuthen"
    Alors même que Georges-Henri Halphen, en 1876, exhibait une série de contre-exemples à l’une des formules centrales de la théorie énumerative des coniques énoncée par Chasles une dizaine d’années auparavant, Hermann Schubert identifiait dans les travaux du même Halphen des expressions formelles desquelles il put tirer les fondements du célèbre ’calcul’ qui porte aujourd’hui son nom. Dans les années qui suivirent, une controverse entre les deux hommes prit place à la fois à travers leur correspondance (par l’intermédiaire de Zeuthen), mais également au sein de la Société Mathématique de France sur la validité et la généralité d’un tel calcul énumératif. Je présenterai cette controverse, et montrerai en quoi elle illustre diverses conceptions de ce qui fait la valeur et la généralité d’un calcul en géométrie.

  • 11h-12h François Lê, "Alfred Clebsch et le genre des courbes algébriques"
    L’historiographie attribue généralement à Alfred Clebsch (1833-1872) le mérite d’avoir appelé en 1865 "genre" un nombre associé à toute courbe algébrique et apparaissant déjà (sous une autre dénomination) dans les travaux de Bernhard Riemann sur les fonctions abéliennes que Clebsch cherchait à simplifier. L’objectif de l’exposé est de mettre en lumière certains points de cet épisode. Il s’agira d’une part d’étudier selon quelles modalités techniques Clebsch introduit le mot de "genre" des courbes algébriques et d’insister sur le contexte classificatoire sous-jacent. D’autre part, je présenterai les différentes applications que Clebsch fait de cette notion dans ses travaux ultérieurs. Je proposerai enfin quelques perspectives relatives au devenir du "genre" des courbes après Clebsch.

  • 12h-13h Commentaire de Pascal Bertin, suivi d’une discussion du thème "Géométrie et Calcul"


Bâtiment Condorcet, Université Paris Diderot, 10 rue Alice Domon et Léonie Duquet, 75013 - Paris*. Plan.
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