War and Peace in Modern Mathematics

War and Peace in Modern Mathematics

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Michael Barany, Princeton University
Fine Hall 314

Wars, both actual and metaphorical, are omnipresent in the history of mathematics.  From sixteenth century arithmetic publishers who promoted the value of trigonometry in out-ballisticking one's foes to the game theorists and fluid dynamicists of the Cold War, mathematicians have both actively participated in warfare and actively appropriated the goals, values, and images of warfare to their own (often commercial) ends.  Famous disputes in the history of mathematics often turn to war for their metaphorical vocabulary, and in some famous cases even led to not-just-metaphorical death. Peace, similarly if less visibly, and both literally and metaphorically, likewise populates mathematicians' roles in public and civic life, their self-presentation, commercial endeavors, and even theoretical goals and methods.  My talk will thematize war and peace in modern mathematics, leading to a presentation of never-before-seen (and in some cases not-yet-even-formulated) findings from my own dissertation research.