Category: tBC

  • Finnegans Wake’s geometry lesson

    The literary sensation that spring of 1939 no doubt was the publication of Finnegans Wake by James Joyce. On May 4th 1939 FW was published simultaneously by Faber and Faber in London and by Viking Press in New York, after seventeen years of composition. In 1928-29, Joyce started publishing individual chapters from FW, then known […]

  • Princeton’s own Bourbaki

    In the first half of 1937, Andre Weil visited Princeton and introduced some of the postdocs present (notably Ralph Boas, John Tukey, and Frank Smithies) to Poldavian lore and Bourbaki’s early work. In 1935, Bourbaki succeeded (via father Cartan) to get his paper “Sur un théorème de Carathéodory et la mesure dans les espaces topologiques”…

  • Cambridge, spring 1939

    One of the few certainties we have on the Bourbaki-Petard wedding invitation is that it was printed in, and distributed out of Cambridge in the spring of 1939, presumably around mid April. So, what was going on, mathematically, in and around Trinity and St. John’s College, at that time? Well, there was the birth of…

  • the Bourbaki code revisited

    The fictitious life of Nicolas Bourbaki remains a source of fascination to some. A few weeks ago, Michael Barany wrote an article for the JStor Daily The mathematical pranksters behind Nicolas Bourbaki. Here’s one of the iconic early Bourbaki pictures, taken at the Dieulefit-meeting in 1938. More than a decade ago I discovered the exact…

  • Where’s Bourbaki’s tomb?

    In according to Groth IV.22 we tried to solve one of the riddles contained in Roubaud’s announcement of Bourbaki’s death. Today, we’ll try our hands on the next one: where was Bourbaki buried? The death announcement gives this fairly opaque clue: “The burial will take place in the cemetery for Random Functions (metro stations Markov…

  • Hasse = “le P. Adique, de l’Ordre des Diophantiens”

    The Bourbaki wedding invitation is probably the most effective branding- and marketing-campaign in the history of mathematics. It contains this, seemingly opaque, paragraph: The trivial isomorphism will be given to them by P. Adic, of the Diophantine Order, at the Principal Cohomology of the Universal Variety, the 3 Cartember, year VI, at the usual hour.…

  • 16 ways to capture a lion (in 1938)

    A classic among mathematical jokes is the paper in the August/September 1938 issue of the American Mathematical Monthly “A contribution to the mathematical theory of big game hunting” by one Hector Petard of Princeton who would marry, one year later, Nicolas Bourbaki’s daughter Betti. claimtoken-511b561b7a5a2 There are two main sources of information on the story…

  • What’s Pippa got to do with the Bourbaki wedding?

    Last time we’ve seen that on June 3rd 1939, the very day of the Bourbaki wedding, Malraux’ movie ‘L’espoir’ had its first (private) viewing, and we mused whether Weil’s wedding card was a coded invitation to that event. But, there’s another plausible explanation why the Bourbaki wedding might have been scheduled for June 3rd :…

  • What happened on the Bourbaki wedding day?

    Early on in this series we deciphered part of the Bourbaki wedding invitation The wedding was planned on “le 3 Cartembre, an VI” or, for non-Bourbakistas, June 3rd 1939. But, why did they choose that particular day? Because the wedding-invitation-joke was concocted sometime between mid april and mid may 1939, the most probable explanation clearly…

  • Bourbaki and the miracle of silence

    The last pre-war Bourbaki congress, held in september 1938 in Dieulefit, is surrounded by mystery. Compared to previous meetings, fewer documents are preserved in the Bourbaki archives and some sentences in the surviving notules have been made illegible. We will have to determine the exact location of the Dieulefit-meeting before we can understand why this…