• IFAC

The British Journal for the History of Science

Mathematics in the archives : deconstructive historiography and the shaping of modern geometry (1837–1852)

avec Nicolas Michel

jeudi 9 septembre 2021, Ivahn Smadja


Abstract :

This essay explores the research practice of French geometer Michel Chasles (1793–1880), from his 1837 Aperçu historique up to the preparation of his courses on ‘higher geometry’ between 1846 and 1852. It argues that this scientific pursuit was jointly carried out on a historiographical and a mathematical terrain. Epistemic techniques such as the archival search for and comparison of manuscripts, the deconstructive historiography of past geometrical methods, and the epistemologically motivated periodization of the history of mathematics are shown to have played a crucial role in the shaping of Chasles’s own theories. In particular, we present Chasles’s approach to the ‘material history’ of algebraic symbolism and argue that it motivated and informed his subsequent invention of a novel notational technology for the writing of geometrical proofs and propositions. In return, this technology allowed Chasles to carry out a programme for the modernization of geometry in keeping with epistemic requirements he had also delineated via a form of historical writing.

Published online by Cambridge University Press : 07 September 2021

Lien vers la revue (Open Access) https://doi.org/10.1017/S0007087421000625




À propos de l'auteur :

Professeur,
Histoire et philosophie des sciences


Courrier électronique : Ivahn Smadja


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