The War of Guns and Mathematics: Mathematical Practices and Communities in France and Its Western Allies around World War I
About this Title
David Aubin, Institut de mathématiques de Jussieu-Paris Rive Gauche, Paris, France and Catherine Goldstein, CNRS, Institut de mathématiques de Jussieu-Paris Rive Gauche, Paris, France, Editors
Publication: History of Mathematics
Publication Year: 2014; Volume 42
ISBNs: 978-1-4704-1469-6 (print); 978-1-4704-1859-5 (online)
MathSciNet review: MR3308762
MSC: Primary 01-06; Secondary 01A60, 01A80
For a long time, World War I has been shortchanged by the historiography of science. Until recently, World War II was usually considered as the defining event for the formation of the modern relationship between science and society. In this context, the effects of the First World War, by contrast, were often limited to the massive deaths of promising young scientists.
By focusing on a few key places (Paris, Cambridge, Rome, Chicago, and others), the present book gathers studies representing a broad spectrum of positions adopted by mathematicians about the conflict, from militant pacifism to military, scientific, or ideological mobilization. The use of mathematics for war is thoroughly examined.
This book suggests a new vision of the long-term influence of World War I on mathematics and mathematicians. Continuities and discontinuities in the structure and organization of the mathematical sciences are discussed, as well as their images in various milieux. Topics of research and the values with which they were defended are scrutinized. This book, in particular, proposes a more in-depth evaluation of the issue of modernity and modernization in mathematics.
The issue of scientific international relations after the war is revisited by a close look at the situation in a few Allied countries (France, Britain, Italy, and the USA). The historiography has emphasized the place of Germany as the leading mathematical country before WWI and the absurdity of its postwar ostracism by the Allies. The studies presented here help explain how dramatically different prewar situations, prolonged interaction during the war, and new international postwar organizations led to attempts at redrafting models for mathematical developments.
Graduate students and research mathematicians interested in the history of mathematics.
Table of Contents
- Italian mathematicians and the First World War: Intellectual debates and institutional innovations
- A mobilized community: Mathematicians in the United States during the First World War
- Debating the place of mathematics at the École polytechnique around World War I
- "I’m just a mathematician": Why and how mathematicians collaborated with military ballisticians at Gâvre
- Why aerodynamics failed to take off in Nancy: An unexpected casualty of World War I