Commission on the History of Mathematics

(from the Bulletin of the International Mathematical Union No. 39, December 1995)

Report to the International Mathematical Union 1995

By Eberhard Knobloch, Chairman

New Editors of Historia Mathematica:

Karen Hunger Parshall, USA, and Jan P. Hogendijk, The Netherlands, have taken over the editorial responsibility of Historia Mathematica and have slightly changed the Editorial Board. The journal runs well, and has developed a healthy backlog of submitted high quality papers. We would like to take this opportunity to thank David Rowe for his deeply appreciated work and his untiring efforts at the head of the journal during the last two years.

Past congresses to which the ICHM contributed:

International Workshop "History of Science, History of Text"

This international workshop was organized by Karine Chemla, French member of the ICHM, on behalf of the EINSTEIN Forum and the Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin. It took place in the so-called "Literarrisches Colloquium" in Berlin from March 30 to April 2, 1995, and brought together scholars from diverse fields, including history of mathematics, in order to conceptualize problems inherent in studying the interrelationship between scientific practices and scientific writing across cultural, geographical and chronological differences. The proceedings will be published (Akademie-Verlag, Berlin) by the organizer.

Actualité de Leibniz: Les deux labyrinthes

An international colloquium was organized by Dominique Berlioz and Frédéric Nef in the Centre Culturel International de Cerisy-la-Salle, France, June 15-22, 1995. Six lectures dealt with the history of mathematics, among them those of Javier Echeverria, Spanish member of the ICHM, and Eberhard Knobloch, Chairman of the ICHM.

Conflict and Cooperation in Building the Scientific Estate: Johann Bernoulli, Other Cases and a General Perspective

The symposium, that took place at Groningen, July 5-6, 1995, was organized by Dutch ICHM member Jan van Maanen. It was held to mark the tercentenary of the appointment of Johann Bernoulli as Professor of Mathematics at Groningen University.

1695 Christiaan Huygens 1995

This international conference was organized by A. Eyffinger under the auspices of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences and in cooperation with the Boerhaave Museum in Leiden and the Museum Hofwijck in Voorburg. It took place in Leiden and in Voorburg, The Netherlands, July 7-9, 1995. One of the opening addresses (by Joella Yoder) and a whole session were devoted to Huygens and mathematics. The proceedings will be published in De seventiende eeuw.

The first European Honours Course in History of Mathematics: History of 17th-century Mathematics, Utrecht, The Netherlands, July 1995

Henk Bos, Utrecht University, organized the course and was one of the six lecturers. The other lectureres were: the Chairman of the ICHM, Eberhard Knobloch; Jan van Maanen, Dutch member of the ICHM; Kirsti Andersen, the Vice-Chairman of the ICHM; and Silvia Roero, Italian member of the ICHM. Some 20 advanced students of the history of mathematics participated in the course, coming from eleven European countries.

The History of Reading the Ancients in Mathematics

Karine Chemla, France, Eberhard Knobloch, Germany, and Jeanne Peiffer, France organized an international conference on the above subject at the Centre International de Rencontres Mathématiques (CIRM) in Luminy-Marseille, France, from October 16 to 20, 1995. It reestablished the tradition of organizing historical conferences at the CIRM. Its director agreed that the next such conference should be organized in 1997. As a consequence, it can be hoped that conferences on the history of mathematics will take place alternately in Luminy and Oberwolfach, Germany. Some 40 historians of mathematics, coming from 14 countries, participated in this conference. 26 lectures discussed interesting aspects of the theme.

4th Austrian Symposium on History of Mathematics

Christa Binder, Austrian member of the ICHM, organized this symposium entitled "999 years: Austria a Part of the Global Development of Mathematics" at Neuhofen, Austria, November 5-11, 1995. 32 speakers coming from 10 countries, contributed to the conference.

Future Congresses:

Workshop on the History of Mathematics in Oberwolfach, November 3-9, 1996.

It will be organized by Kirsti Andersen, Aarhus, Henk J.M. Bos, Utrecht, and Menso Folkerts, Munich.The subject of the meeting is: "Significant Changes in Our Picture of Mathematics Past: Crucial Results of Four Decades of Research in the History of Mathematics." It will aim to analyze the nature and significance of the results of research in recent decades. Six sub-themes have been chosen for this approach:

  • Interfaces between mathematics and social practices, 1850-1950
  • Mathematics in the Islamic period,
  • Interfaces between mathematics and physics in the nineteenth century,
  • Historical studies on ethnomathematics,
  • Mathematics in the European medieval period,
  • History of stochastics.

ICHM and the XXth International Congress of History of Science, Liège, July 20-26, 1997

Organized by the IUHPS/DHS, the Congress will focus on "Science, Technology and Industry." The Program Committee is chaired by Charles C. Gillispie (USA) and the Local Organizing Committee by Robert Halleux, University of Lie`ge. Two symposia will be organized on behalf of the ICHM:

  • The Heritage of A.P.Yushkevich: organized by K. Chemla, S. Demidov, E. Knobloch,
  • Formation of a research area and a scientific community: applied mathematics: organized by G. Israel and J.W. Dauben.

These proposals have been accepted by the local organizing committee of the Lie`ge Congress. The first circular was distributed during the fall of 1995.

International Congress of Mathematicians, Berlin 1998

The ICHM intends to organize a colloquium on the history of mathematics with the tentative title "Berlin and Its Relations to Other International Mathematical Centers." The proposal has been sent to Philip Griffiths, Chairman of the Program Committee, and to the Chairman of the Local Organizing Comittee in Berlin, Martin Groetschel. The ICHM is still waiting for official approval.

The European Honours Course in the History of Mathematics

The SOKRATES Inter-university Cooperation Program (ICP) "History of Mathematics" was established early 1994 with the aim of organizing yearly intensive programs for students in history of mathematics. 34 universities are participating in the ICP. The second course on "Nineteenth-century Mathematics" will take place in Palermo, Italy, September 2-20, 1996. Addresses of the Committee: Mathematical Institute, Utrecht University, c/o Henk Bos, Postbox 80010, NL 3508 TA Utrecht Netherlands, tel.; fax; e-mail Department of Mathematics, University of Palermo, c/o Aldo Brigaglia, Via Archirafi 34, I-90123 Palermo, Italy; tel. 39.91.6040401; fax 39.91.6165425; e-mail

ICHM World Directory of Historians of Mathematics

The new edition, edited by K. Andersen and M. Dybdahl, University of Aarhus, is available in print or on a disc (DOS.WP51). The price for a printed copy or a disc is $8 for residents of Europe and $10 for residents from outside Europe (postal charges included). Directions for ordering copies:

  1. Remit the necessary amount of money to the account of the treasurer of the ICHM. Menso Folkerts, Stadtsparkasse Munich, Haidhauser Strasse 1, 81675 Munich, Germany, Account number 28-267953 (bank code number 701 500 00), key word: World Directory.
  2. Send an order to Menso Folkerts, Institut fuer Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften, Ludwig- Maximilians-Universität Munich, Museumsinsel, Postfach, 80306 Munich, Germany. See Historia Mathematica 22 (1995), p. 470.

The ICHM hopes that its national members will help in making the existence of the new edition known.

Ongoing ICHM projects

Photo Archive in Leipzig

The chairman wrote to the University of Leipzig in order to help Hans Joachim Ilgauds to continue his work with regard to the Photo Archive. For the time being the ICHM must await clarification of the situation at Leipzig Institute.

Revised ICHM Bibliography

Albert Lewis plans to work with the AMS in producing an on-line version of the ICHM annotated bibliography. The ICHM will give a reasonable amount of money in order to help to realize this project.

ICHM Dictionary on History of Mathematics

The Dictionary project edited by John Fauvel continues to progress. It is to be published by Oxford University Press.

ICHM Historiography project

The ICHM is in the last stages of completing a final draft of a major cooperative effort: Historiography of the History of Mathematics. At present, nearly forty colleagues from all parts of the world are collaborating to describe the history of the history of mathematics from the first historical writings on mathematics by the ancient Greeks and Chinese, to the present. The work will be finished presumably in 1996.

World Mathematical Year 2000

The ICHM wishes to contribute. Suggestions are welcome.

A still rather new journal for the history and philosphy of science and technology is Neusis. Greek historians and philosophers of science and technology edit this journal which appears biannually. The second volume appeared in spring 1995. All papers, book reviews, etc. are published in Greek. Submitted papers, written in other languages are translated into Greek, if they are accepted for publication. There is a big effort also to translate into Greek and to publish less recent papers which contributed in shaping the discipline. This applies, in particular, to the history of mathematics. The editorial office is headed by Jean Christianidis, Greek member of the ICHM.