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Report of the Commission on the History of Mathematics to the Division of the History of Science of the International Union of the History and Philosophy of Science

Historia Mathematica 2 (1975), pp. 77-82.

The International Commission met on 22 August 1974 in Tokyo on the occasion of the XIVth International Congress on the History of Science. Present were H.L.L. Busard, S.S. Demidov (Vice-Chairman, acting as Chairman), P. Dugac (Secretary), S. Ito, E.S. Kennedy, A. Kobori, J.D. North, S. S. Petrova, L. Rosenfeld, I. Schneider, C.J. Scriba and H. Wussing. The meeting discussed the report (see below) submitted in absentia by the chairman, approved changes in the membership of the International Commission and its Executive Committee, and proposed that at the XVth International Congress of History of Science in Edinburgh in 1977 the Commission organize a special program on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Gauss.

On 24 August the General Assembly of the Division of the History of Science of the International Union of the History and Philosophy of Science approved the report of the Commission and the proposal for commemoration of the birth of Gauss.


By Kenneth O. May, Chairman

Background: At the XIIIth International Congress of History of Science in Moscow on 23 August 1971, the Subcommittee on the History of Mathematics which had been formed as an outcome of a decision of the XIIth Congress in Paris in 1968, asked the Assembly to establish a Commission on the History of Mathematics, appoint an Executive Commitee and authorize the Commission to sponsor a journal. This report was accepted, and an Executive Committee was appointed consisting of K.O. May, Chairman; S.S. Demidov, Vice-Chairman; P. Dugac, secretary; K.-R. Biermann; G.J. Whitrow; and one other member to be appointed.

Growth of the Commission: In order to prepare for founding the journal and to develop other activities, the Executive Committee needed the collaboration of Commission members in many countries. Appointments were made as suitable colleagues were located. The Commission during 1971-1973 included members from 27 countries. They are listed on the back cover of volume 1 of Historia Mathematica.

Members of the Commission gave advice, supplied names of colleagues interested in history of mathematics, sollicited contributions and promoted the journal in their areas.

Membership of the Commission changes from time to time, according to changing interests and ability to serve. The category of "member" is informal and does not require anything more than an invitation from the Chairman of the Commission, based on consultation with colleagues as appropriate.

Executive Committee: The vacant place on the Executive Committee, provided for by the Assembly in 1971, was filled as planned by a Japanese colleague, Prof. Shuntaro Ito of Tokyo University.

In 1973, the Chairman of the Commission became a Canadian citizen. Since it seems desirable to have representation from the United States on the Executive Committee, Prof. Michael S. Mahoney of Princeton University was coopted as a member of the Committee.

Meetings: Since the XIIIth Congress, there have been no meetings of the Commission or its Executive Committee. Business has been conducted by correspondence and in chance encounters of individuals.

Notae de Historia Mathematica: In November 1971, the Commission began publishing a newsletter which served to prepare the ground for the new journal by exchanging ideas and publicizing developments. In its pages were discussed such matters as name, format, departments, cost, and language policy for the new journal. It solicited articles and book reviews so that the work of editing the journal proceeded in an orderly way for a considerable period before the first issue appeared.

Altogether, five issues (November 1971 to June 1973) of the newsletter were distributed to about 1200 colleagues and organizations throughout the world. They record the work of the Commission as well as giving a partial record of professional activity in the field.

Directory: From the formation of the Subcommittee in 1969, colleagues in many countries assisted in establishing a directory file of addresses, research specialities, and language abilities of historians of mathematics. This indexed file was the basis of the mailing list for the Notae. It continues to grow and is an essential reference for soliciting reviews, assigning referees, etc.

In the summer of 1972 a World Directory of Historians of Mathematics was published in a first edition of 1000. It contained about 700 names from 37 countries indexed by nationality and specialty. It was sent free to advance subscribers to the journal who paid in 1972. Sales at $4.00 per copy (with reductions to listees and for advance payment) of the remaining copies paid the cost of publication. A new enlarged edition will be published in due time.

Historia Mathematica: 
(The sections of the report dealing with the journal, appear in Historia Mathematica 2 (1975), pp. 78-81.)

1. The Commission asks the Assembly to approve the enlarged Executive Committee, consisting of K. O. May (Toronto), Chairman; S. S. Demidov (Moscow), Vice-Chairman; P. Dugac (Paris), Secretary; K.-R. Biermann (Berlin); S. Ito (Tokyo); M. S. Mahoney (Princeton); G. J. Whitrow (London). (We recognize that it is highly desirable to rotate membership on the Executive Committee among various countries. However, there seems to be general agreement that it would be a good idea to continue the original membership and officers for another three-year period, with the understanding that changes be made at the next Congress. In particular, during the next three years, the Commission and the Executive Committee should discuss the reorganizaton of the Commission so that it would be more than a mere adjunct of the journal. It would be desirable to have a chairman different from the editor of the journal.)

2. We ask the Assembly to make a small grant in support of the journal. (We are aware that the Division has serious financial problems. However, a small token grant would be helpful for the journal in its efforts to secure continued support elsewhere.)