Publication details

Mathematicians and scientists as public figures: Living in Ivory Towers?



Year of publication 2018
Type Workshop
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Education

Description Thematic interdisciplinary workshop for historians of science. Theme description: In the aftermath of the global financial crisis of 2008, The Financial Times demanded that “mathematicians must get out of their ivory towers”. However, have they ever really been there? Is the profession of a mathematician incompatible with that of a politician, as Timothy Gowers suggests? Does interest in mathematics or science need to exclude involvement in the public sphere, including politics? In the history of science, there are several prominent examples of scientists who got heavily involved in politics. This was the case of Anton Pannekoek, a prominent astronomer and a socialist theorist. Albert Einstein’s involvement in the Frauenglassaffair in the McCarthy era is also quite well known. An example par excellence is Dirk Jan Struik (1894-2000), who was not only involved in politics, but also sought to challenge the view of mathematics as something that gets created in an ivory tower.

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