AMS Prize to Bottazzini: “History of mathematics is modern”

Reblogged from Science on the Net

Another international scientific award that speaks Italian. Umberto Bottazzini, Full Professor at the University of Milan and Fellow of the American Mathematical Society, was recently awarded the 2015 Whiteman Prize “For His many works in the history of mathematics, notably on the rise of modern mathematics in Italy and on analysis in the 19th and early 20th centuries.”

His activity concerning history of mathematics is wide and varied, both as a researcher and as a communicator. We interviewed Professor Bottazzini on what it means to study history of mathematics today and what are the most important paths to be covered. The answer he has given to us is simple: nowadays the history of mathematics should serve first of all to the mathematicians themselves, and to do this it is necessary to especially focus on the mathematics of the last two centuries, which is not yet studied enough.

Although they have been very wide, in fact, Bottazzini’s studies have always followed a precise direction: “history must serve primarily to the present, and possibly to the future.” An idea that has been translated over the years into the choice to focus on the mathematics developed after the French Revolution, in particular on the history of real and complex analysis. “If you take any book concerning the history of mathematics, you realize it has a ‘pyramidal structure’ (with very rare exceptions): a wide base devoted to the mathematics in the Antiquity, the works of Euclid, Apollonius and Archimedes. Conversely, as the centuries pass, the pages dedicated to the most recent contributions are always less. I believe that we must reverse the pyramid and investigate what happened in the last centuries, for instance since Napoleonic age.”

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