Skip to main content
×
Home
    • Aa
    • Aa

The Withering Immortality of Nicolas Bourbaki: A Cultural Connector at the Confluence of Mathematics, Structuralism, and the Oulipo in France

  • David Aubin (a1)
Abstract
The Argument

The group of mathematicians known as Bourbaki persuasively proclaimed the isolation of its field of research — pure mathematics — from society and science. It may therefore seem paradoxical that links with larger French cultural movements, especially structuralism and potential literature, are easy to establish. Rather than arguing that the latter were a consequence of the former, which they were not, I show that all of these cultural movements, including the Bourbakist endeavor, emerged together, each strengthening the public appeal of the others through constant, albeit often superficial, interaction. This codependency is partly responsible for their success and moreover accounts for their simultaneous fall from favor, which, however, can clearly be seen as also stemming from different internal problems. To understand this dynamics, I argue that Bourbaki's role can best be captured by using the notion of cultural connector, which I introduce here.

Copyright
References
Hide All
Vladimir I. Arnol'd [1981] 1992. Catastrophe Theory: Third, Revised, and Expanded Edition. Translated by G. S. Wassermann , based on translation by R. K. Thomas . Berlin: Springer.

Vladimir I. Arnol'd 1995. “Will Mathematics Survive?: A Report from the Zurich Congress.” Mathematical Intelligencer 17(3):610.

Liliane Beaulieu . 1994. “Dispelling a Myth: Questions and Answers about Bourbaki's Early Work, 1934–1944.” In The Intersection of History and Mathematics, edited by Sasaki Chikara , Sugiura Mitsuo , and Joseph W. Dauben , 241–52. Basel: Birkhäuser.

N. Bourbaki 1950. “The Architecture of Mathematics.” The American Mathematical Monthly 57:22232.

N. Bourbaki — [1960] 1994. Elements of the History of Mathematics. Translated by John Meldrum . Berlin: Springer.

Henri Cartan . 1980. “Nicolas Bourbaki and Contemporary Mathematics.” The Mathematical Intelligencer 2:175–80.

Leo Corry . 1992. “Nicolas Bourbaki and the Concept of Mathematical Structure.” Synthese 92:315–48.

Philippe Courrège . [1965] 1971. “Un modèle mathématique des structures élémentaires de parenté.” L'Homme 5(3–4):248–90. Reprinted in Anthropologie et calcul, edited by Philippe Richard and Robert Jaulin, 126–81. Paris: Union générale d'éditions, coll. [10/18.]

Peter Galison . 1994. “The Ontology of the Enemy: Norbert Wiener and the Cybernetic Vision.” Critical Inquiry 21:228–66.

Paul R. Halmos 1957. “Nicolas Bourbaki.” Scientific American, 196(May): 8897.

David Hilbert . [1900] 1902. “Mathematical Problems.” Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society 8:437–79, authorized translation by Mary Winston Newson .

Benoît Mandelbrot . 1987. “Towards a Second Stage of Indeterminism in Science.” Interdisciplinary Science Review 12:117–27.

Constance Reid . 1986. Hilbert — Courant. New York: Springer.

David Ruelle , and Takens Floris . 1971. “On the Nature of Turbulence.” Communications in Mathematical Physics 20:167–92.

Michel Serres . — [1982] 1995. Genesis. Translated by Geneviève James and James Nielsen . Ann Arbor: University of Michigan.

Andre Weil . — [1991] 1992. Apprenticeship of a Mathematician. Translated by Jennifer Gage . Basel: Birkhäuser.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Science in Context
  • ISSN: 0269-8897
  • EISSN: 1474-0664
  • URL: /core/journals/science-in-context
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 36 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 353 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 17th October 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.