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Axis History and philosophy of mathematics

Mathematics 19th – 21st, History and Philosophy

The seminar on the history and philosophy of modern mathematics is a place of presentation and discussion of mathematical texts produced in the 19th and 20th centuries, in both historical and philosophical perspectives. It intends to serve as a place of exploration (reading, translation, explanation) of mathematical documents little or poorly known, but also to present work in progress on these periods. The emphasis is on proximity to textual sources. The sessions usually take the form of a discussion of the said sources (to which speakers give prior access), preceded by a historical or mathematical exposition.

Organization: Thomas Berthod, Paul-Emmanuel Timotei et Clément Bonvoisin

2011-2012, 2012-2013, 2013-2014,
2014-2015, 2015-2016, 2017-2018,
2018-2019, 2019-2020, 2020-2021,
2021-2022, 2022-2023

PROGRAMME 2023-2024

We will gather on a monthly basis on Fridays in Room Malevitch (483A) building Condorcet, Université Paris-Cité - 4 rue Elsa Morante, 75013 - Paris.
The program will be announced progressively throughout the semester.

Friday, 6th October 2023

Program :

  • 2.00 pm - 3.30 pm
    Leo Corry (Tel Aviv University)
    Two Views of Excellence in Research, Two Views of Zionist Nation-Building: Pure Mathematics at the Hebrew University, Applied Mathematics at the Weizmann Institute.

    Abstract :
    I will present a comparative analysis of the early years of two world-class centers of mathematical research in Mandatory Palestine, and then in the recently created State of Israel. They pursued different ideals of mathematical excellence which were strongly associated with two different views of Zionism and of the role that science institutions should play in the national project envisioned by each.

    The Einstein Institute of Mathematics was established in 1925 at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem (HUJI). Edmond Landau came in 1937 as the first professor and scientific leader, and was succeeded by Avraham Halevy Fraenkel. The neo-humanistic, conceptual spirit of German pure mathematics dominated activities in Jerusalem and it was very much in accordance with a view of Zionism that sought to establish a leading intellectual and spiritual center for the Jewish people in Palestine with a Hebrew University as its flagship.

    The Weizmann Institute of Science (WIS) was established about twenty years later in the rural town of Rehovot. It had a thoroughly practical and applied orientation meant to serve the aims of political Zionism in its most activist version, which saw in the creation of a Jewish State in Palestine the most urgent and significant task. A Department of Applied Mathematics was established at WIS in 1948 under the leadership of Chaim Leib Pekeris, whose mathematical views consolidated against the background of his wartime activities at MIT and Columbia, and under the marked influence of John von Neumann. His purpose when joining WIS was to build a high-speed electronic computer and to implement a wide-ranging program of research in various fields of applied mathematics based on computing-intensive methods.

  • 3.30 pm – 4.00 pm

  • 4.00 pm – 5.30 pm
    Jan von Plato (University of Helsinki)
    New light on Gödel’s life and work
    Abstract :
    Kurt Gödel (1906-1978) was a secretive character who published very little. His foremost result, the incompleteness theorem, revolutionized the foundations of mathematics in 1931. By 1937, he had come half-way through with the solution of Hilbert’s famous first problem about the cardinality of the set of real numbers. After this success, Gödel’s only new published results were about the strange circular-time solutions to the field equations of Einstein’s theory of general relativity he had found in 1949.

    The study of Gödel’s tens of thousands of pages of notebooks since 2017, written in an abandoned shorthand, gives a picture of his achievements, as well as of the aims of his life, that is quite different from the one suggested by his publications. As to achievements, there is a plethora of results on logic and foundations of mathematics he revealed to no one. As to the aims, these reflect a vision of science and philosophy he had formed early on in his life, while still a high-school student. Said vision contained that "the world and everything in it has a meaning and makes sense, and it is a good and doubtless meaning.
    So, the talk would be in part about the results Gödel had achieved from 1940 on, when he ceased to publish, in part about his grand program as dictated by his youthful philosophy"

Friday, 17th November 2023

Friday, 15th December 2023

Friday, 19th January 2024

Friday, 23rd February 2024

Friday, 22nd March 2024

Friday, 26th April 2024

Friday, 17th May 2024

Friday, 28th June 2024

. . . . . . . .


Building Condorcet, University Paris Cité, 4 rue Elsa Morante, 75013 - Paris*.Map
Calculate your itinerary with the public transport website RATP

Metro: lines 14 and RER C, stop: Bibliothèque François Mitterrand or line 6, stop: Quai de la gare. Bus: 62 and 89 (stop: Bibliothèque rue Mann), 325 (stop: Watt), 64 (stop: Tolbiac-Bibliothèque François Mitterrand)