Impersonation and personification in mid-twentieth century mathematics

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Pseudonymous mathematician Nicolas Bourbaki and his lesser-known counterpart E.S. Pondiczery, devised respectively in France and in Princeton in the mid-1930s, together index a pivotal moment in the history of modern mathematics, marked by international infrastructures and institutions that depended on mathematicians’ willingness to play along with mediated personifications. By pushing these norms and practices of personification to their farcical limits, Bourbaki’s and Pondiczery’s impersonators underscored the consensual social foundations of legitimate participation in a scientific community and the symmetric fictional character of both fraud and integrity in scientific authorship. To understand authorial identity and legitimacy, individual authors’ conduct and practices matter less than the collective interpersonal relations of authorial assertion and authentication that take place within disciplinary institutions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)417-436
Number of pages20
JournalHistory of Science
Issue number4
Early online date26 Jun 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • authorship
  • mathematics
  • pseudonyms
  • fraud
  • integrity
  • abstracting


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