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Alma Steingart from Harvard University Will Speak on “Contested Boundaries: Applied Mathematics from a Historical Perspective”

Alma Steingart from Harvard University Will Speak on “Contested Boundaries: Applied Mathematics from a Historical Perspective”

The department would like to welcome Alma Steingart, from Harvard University, who will be giving 2 talks on Tuesday, 1/31/17, from 12:30-1:30 in SCP 101 and Wednesday, 2/1/17, from 11:00-12:00 in SCP 117. Afterwards he will be doing a workshop from 3:30 – 4:30 pm in SCP 224.

Abstract:
What is applied mathematics? In these talks, I offer an historical examination of the changing conceptions regarding applied mathematics over the past three centuries.

Talk 1: Focuses on the history of mathematics from the beginning of the seventeenth until the end of the nineteenth century. It was then that applied mathematics established itself as a distinct professional identity separate from pure mathematics. As I demonstrate, it is impossible to answer the question, ‘what is applied mathematics?’ without attending to the more vexing question, what is mathematics.

Talk 2:
Independent of the first, focuses on the growth of applied mathematics in the United States during the twentieth century. I examine the emergence of the discipline in the aftermath of World War II. Such an historical perspective, I hope, will illuminate contemporary concerns about the breadth and range of applied mathematics.

Bio:
Dr. Steingart received a BS in Mathematics from Columbia University before she joined MIT’s Program in History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology, and Society as a doctoral candidate. She spent one year at the Max Planck Institute in Berlin as a pre-doctoral research fellow and, after receiving her Ph.D., she was nominated fro the highly prestigious Harvard Society of Fellows Junior Fellowship. Her recently finished first book: Pure Abstraction, Mathematical Thought and High Modernism investigates how what counts as mathematics to mathematicians has changed, sometimes quite significantly, during the 20th century. In addition, she’s written brilliant papers on the rise of animations in understanding mathematics, examining new techniques by which mathematicians represent abstract ideas in multiple media. In her papers Steingart calls for a broader conception of what counts as mathematical activity, beyond the lone mathematician working with paper and pencil.

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