Tag Archives: History

The Level of High School Mathematics Education in France 220 Years Ago

Whenever new PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) results are announced, or some journalist writes a piece on the latest state of French baccalauréat exams, many people take a critical look at educational matters and make comparisons. I think a little example from the dusty pages of the history of mathematics can shed some light at the level of high school education in France back in 1800s, that is, almost 220 years ago. Who knows, it might even give some inspiration to people who want to check their standards.

The example is about the famous German mathematician Gauss: He wrote a remarkable book in 1798, humbly titled as “Disquisitiones Arithmeticae” (“Arithmetical Investigations”). The book was first published in 1801, and only 6 years later it was translated into French and published in 1807 as “Recherches arithmétiques“.

The translator of this important book was Antoine Charles Marcelin Poullet-Delisle, a math teacher at a high school: Lycée d’Orléans. Another French high school teacher, Louis Poinsot, wrote a long review about the translation in a daily newspaper on 21 March 1807, Saturday. Poinsot was a mathematics teacher at Lycée Bonaparte in Paris, just like the French translator of Gauss’s book.

The archives of the daily newspaper where Poinsot published his review of “Recherches arithmétiques” is available online at DigiNole Home » FSU Digital Library » Napoleonic Collections » Le Moniteur universel » Moniteur universel

And you can read the review on the second page of the newspaper: Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on December 11, 2019 in Math, Tarih


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What was the state of AI in Europe almost 70 years ago?

When it comes to the history of Artificial Intelligence (AI), even a simple Internet search will tell you that the defining event was “The Dartmouth Summer Research Project on Artificial Intelligence“, a summer workshop in 1956, held in Dartmouth College, United States. What is less known is the fact that, 5 years before Dartmouth, USA, there was a conference in Europe, back in 1951. The conference in Paris was “Les machines à calculer et la pensée humaine” (Calculating machines and human thinking). This can be easily considered the earliest major conference on Artificial Intelligence. Supported by the Rockefeller foundation, its participant list included the intellectual giants of the field, such as Warren Sturgis McCulloch, Norbert Wiener, Maurice Vincent Wilkes, and others.

The organizer of the conference, Louis Couffignal, was also mathematician and cybernetics pioneer, who had already published a book titled “Les machines à calculer. Leurs principes. Leur évolution.” in 1933 (Calculating machines. Their principles. Their evolution.) Another highlight from the conference was El Ajedrecista (The Chess Player), designed by Spanish civil engineer and mathematician Leonardo Torres y Quevedo. There was also a presentation based on practical experiences with the Z4 computer, designed by Konrad Zuse, and operated in ETH Zurich. The presenter was none other than Eduard Stiefel, inventor of the conjugate gradient method, among other things.

The field of AI has come a long way since 1951, and it is safe to say it’s going to penetrate into more aspects of our lives and technologies. It’s also safe to say that like many technological and scientific endeavors, progress in AI is the result of many bright minds in many different countries, and generally USA and UK are regarded as the places that contributed a lot. But it’s also important to recognize the lesser known facts such as this Paris conference in 1951, and realize the strong tradition in Europe: not only the academic, research and development track, but also the strong industrial and business tracks. Historical artifacts in languages other than English necessarily mean less recognition, but they should be a reason to cherish the diversity and variety. I believe all of these aspects combined should guide Europe in its quest for advancing the state of the art in AI, both in terms of software, hardware, and combined systems.

This article is heavily based on and inspired by the following article by Herbert Bruderer, a retired lecturer in didactics of computer science at ETH Zürich: “The Birthplace of Artificial Intelligence?

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Posted by on July 11, 2019 in Math, Programlama, Science


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A Tale of Two Opera Houses: Belgium and Turkey

My 7 seven year old son will visit the opera house in Antwerp today, together with his classmates and teachers as part of his school activities. We talked about music and today’s activity as I was driving him to the school this morning. This took me to a trip down the memory lane, and back to the harsh realities of the world I live in 2018.

I grew up in Istanbul, one of the oldest cities in the world with a very rich and complex historical, cultural, and archeological heritage. In my city, I used to go to opera and ballet as a high school, and then a university student. In fact, opera tickets were generally cheaper than cinema tickets, back in the 1990s and beginning of 2000s. The opera house was named “Atatürk Cultural Center”. It was an important part of our collective memory. It’s been demolished recently and this is how it looks as of 2018. This is how collective memory is treated: Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on November 8, 2018 in Music


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Book review: How the Hippies Saved Physics: Science, Counterculture, and the Quantum Revival

David Kaiser brings a whole new perspective to the concept of history of science in his book “How the Hippies Saved Physics: Science, Counterculture, and the Quantum Revival” (or maybe we should call it journalism of science, because almost all of the heroes of this wonderful book are alive). One of the central themes of the book revolves around the classical question of “what is the line between science and pseudoscience?” and others such as “do people move between categories, and if they do, does that lead to any scientifically valuable results?”. hip

For the reader who thinks science ‘progresses’ (whatever that progress means) in a linear, stepwise manner, the book is definitely full of surprises: expect the unexpected from a turbulent period of intellectual history throughout 60s and 70s, reaching to 90s and well to the 21st century. You will meet heroes such as Feynman (in very interesting settings), as well as the names probably you haven’t heard before, and you will learn that inspirations for scientific ideas can come from very unexpected domains. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on September 9, 2013 in Books, Science


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