Tag Archive for bourbaki


Map of the Parisian mathematical scene 1933-39

. Michele Audin has written a book on the history of the Julia seminar (hat tip +Chandan Dalawat via Google+). The “Julia Seminar” was organised between 1933 and 1939, on monday afternoons, in the Darboux lecture hall of the Institut Henri Poincare. After good German tradition, the talks were followed by tea, “aimablement servi par Mmes Dubreil et Chevalley”. A… Read more →

On categories, go and the book $in$

On categories, go and the book $\in$

A nice interview with Jacques Roubaud (the guy responsible for Bourbaki’s death announcement) in the courtyard of the ENS. He talks about go, categories, the composition of his book $\in$ and, of course, Grothendieck and Bourbaki. Clearly there are pop-math books like dedicated to $\pi$ or $e$, but I don’t know just one novel having as its title a single… Read more →


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 behind this paper. There are… Read more →


From the Noether boys to Bourbaki

Next year I’ll be teaching a master course on the “History of Mathematics” for the first time, so I’m brainstorming a bit on how to approach such a course and I would really appreciate your input. Rather than giving a chronological historic account of some period, I’d like this course to be practice oriented and focus on questions such as… Read more →



In Belgium the hashtag-craze of the moment is #cestjoelle. Joelle Milquet is perceived to be the dark force behind everything, from the crisis in Greece, over DSK, to your mother-in-law coming over this weekend? #cestjoelle. Sam Leith used the same meme in his book the coincidence engine. A hurricane assembling a passenger jet out of old bean-cans? #cestGrothendieck All shops… Read more →


the Bourbaki code : offline

If you’ve downloaded recently the little booklet containing the collection of my posts on the Bourbaki code, either in pdf- or epub-format, cherish it. I have taken all Bourbaki-code posts offline (that is, changed their visibility from ‘Public’ to ‘Private’). Here’s why. Though all speculations and the few ‘discoveries’ in these posts are entirely my own work, I did benefit… Read more →


If Bourbaki=WikiLeaks then Weil=Assange

In an interview with readers of the Guardian, December 3rd 2010, Julian Assange made a somewhat surprising comparison between WikiLeaks and Bourbaki, sorry, The Bourbaki (sic) : “I originally tried hard for the organisation to have no face, because I wanted egos to play no part in our activities. This followed the tradition of the French anonymous pure mathematians, who… Read more →


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 is that they took a… Read more →


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 had to be done. It’s… Read more →


Who was ‘le P. Adique’?

Last year we managed to solve the first few riddles of the Bourbaki code, but several mysteries still remain. For example, who was the priest performing the Bourbaki-Petard wedding ceremony? The ‘faire part’ identifies him as ‘le P. Adique, de l’Ordre des Diophantiens’. As with many of these Bourbaki-jokes, this riddle too has several layers. There is the first straightforward… Read more →


Where’s Bourbaki’s Escorial?

Early 1936, Andre Weil and Evelyne Gillet made a pre-honeymooning trip to Spain and visited El Escorial. Weil was so taken by the place that he planned the next Bourbaki-conference to be held in a nearby college. However, the Bourbakis never made it to to Spain that summer as the Spanish Civil War broke out July 17th, a few weeks… Read more →

Olivier Messiaen & Mathieu 12

Olivier Messiaen & Mathieu 12

To mark the end of 2009 and 6 years of blogging, two musical compositions with a mathematical touch to them. I wish you all a better 2010! Remember from last time that we identified Olivier Messiaen as the ‘Monsieur Modulo’ playing the musical organ at the Bourbaki wedding. This was based on the fact that his “modes à transposition limitée”… Read more →


Seriously now, where was the Bourbaki wedding?

A few days before Halloween, Norbert Dufourcq (who died december 17th 1990…), sent me a comment, containing lots of useful information, hinting I did get it wrong about the church of the Bourbali wedding in the previous post. Norbert Dufourcq, an organist and student of Andre Machall, the organist-in-charge at the Saint-Germain-des-Prés church in 1939, the place where I speculated… Read more →