Recently I received a kind letter from Professor Hodgson, Secretary of the present ICMI, making me the honour of asking me to contribute an article for the fiftieth issue of the ICMI Bulletin, as one of the past presidents of ICMI. It was indeed an extremely great honour for me to be named President of ICMI for the period 1975-78, just after Sir James Lighthill of England and before Professor Hassler Whitney of the U.S.A. I take pleasure of writing these lines concerning this period.
Together with his letter, Professor Hodgson sent me kindly the Nos. 46-49 of the ICMI Bulletin among which No. 47 contains the tables of contents of the ICMI Bulletin 1972-1990 and No. 48 a list of the ICMI Executive Committees 1908-1998, both of which have helped me greatly to remember the period concerned. Let me give here a short account thereof and at the same time the situation of this period in my personal life.
I was born in 1906 in Tokyo, graduated from the University of Tokyo in 1926 and after one and a half year of graduate study at the same university under the guidance of Professor Takagi, founder of the class field theory. I went over to study in Europe in 1931-34 mostly in Hamburg with E. Artin, then in Paris where I had the great fortune to get acquainted with mathematicians like Claude Chevalley, André Weil, Henri Cartan, Jean Dieudonné, who took later a collective pseudonym of Nicolas Bourbaki and attempted to renew fundamentally the present day mathematics, with final good success as well-known. I returned to Japan in 1934 and joined the teaching staff of the University of Tokyo in 1935 in which position I remained until 1967, the age limit at this University. I taught at another private university for ten years after which I was named a member of the Japan Academy. In 1950-70, I engaged myself in the editing of Japanese school text-books. Thus in 1975 I had finished all these businesses which could serve, I hoped, for some international affairs. I suppose that it was Henri Cartan who lured me to such affairs. I had been acquainted with him since the 1930s as said above and he was (and is still now) very kind to me.
In the wake of the success of the Bourbaki movement, the reform movement of mathematical instruction began in the early 1950s particularly in the U.S. by the SMSG (School Mathematics Study Group) directed by Begle. But the excess of this tendency was warned by mathematicians like André Weil or M. Kline. In the international politics, on the other hand, the Soviet Union took a quite separate position from the "West" at the time. I believe that the general background of the period 1975-78 was largely like this.
Fortunately, the tradition of the ICMI is rather apolitical. Our Executive Committee consisted of two Vice-Presidents: Bent Christiansen (Denmark) and Hans-Georg Steiner (Germany), Secretary: Yukiyoshi Kawada (Japan), Members: Edward Begle (U.S.A.), Lev Kudrjavcev (USSR), Ex Officio: James Lighthill (UK), Deane Montgomery (President of IMU), Jacques-Louis Lions (Secretary of IMU), Hans Freudenthal (ICSU).
The greatest event of our term was the 3rd ICME held in Karlsruhe in 1976 with the Local Organizing Committee chaired successfully by Professor Kunle, particularly in close collaboration with both Vice-Presidents. I was invited several times to the Institute of Bielefeld organised by Steiner and made a number of visits to Christiansen in his home near Copenhagen.
All the members of the Executive Committee, except the Ex Officio members, had an opportunity to meet in Karlsruhe and give an open symposium. We had thus a chance to hear a vivid discussion by Begle. Unfortunately the time ran away too rapidly. Kudrjavcev, our Russian colleague, was of rather moderate character. I received from him a number of letters kindly written in good English.
I was also invited to meetings in India and in the Philippines. I was still young and could enjoy these.
Jacques-Louis Lions, one of our Ex Officio members, did not come to ICMI meetings but he came several times to my country to meet his colleagues. I have been also well acquainted with him and miss him greatly in learning his decease several weeks ago.
I am happy to learn through recent issues of the ICMI Bulletin of the remarkable development of the Commission. I approve particularly of the presidential addresses by Hyman Bass in issues Nos. 46 and 49 and express my most sincere wish for further development in the same direction.
Past ICMI President (1975-78)
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