Michael J,. Barany, Princeton University, on Thursday, February 11, at 3:30 pm in SCP 117

**Title:** Taking Nicolas Bourbaki Personally: How the most intriguing mathematician in modern history tried (and failed, twice) to join the American Mathematical Society.

**Abstract: **Nicolas Bourbaki is widely considered one of the most influential mathematicians of the twentieth century, and is arguably the most intriguing mathematician in modern history. Part of his intrigue comes from the fact that while Bourbaki was a prolific author and had a strong personality and sense of humor, he did not (unlike most mathematicians) have a birth certificate, a passport, or even a body, having been born instead as the collective enterprise of a radical group of French mathematicians in the 1930s. Despite these apparent limitations, Bourbaki tried twice in the late 1940s to join the American Mathematical Society, and was unsuccessful in both attempts. Examining the original application forms and the American Mathematical Society’s reactions to them, I will characterize Bourbaki’s life and times in the context of the rapidly transforming global mathematics community in the mid-twentieth century. A central question for all of Bourbaki’s interlocutors (including the AMS) in this period was Bourbaki’s status as an individual person, collective institution, or something (or someone!) in between, and the stakes of that status could be quite high. I will thus explain what it meant to take Bourbaki personally, and why that mattered to a changing mathematical discipline.

**Bio:** Michael J. Barany is a Ph.D. candidate in Princeton University’s Program in History of Science, where he studies the history of modern mathematics. One of his favorite academic experiences was teaching HIS 120: Science in Modern Europe at TCNJ in the Fall 2013 semester. He has published over two dozen articles and reviews on a wide range of subjects, including an op-ed on the history of the Fields Medal in the New York Times, a feature story on the history of counting in the magazine New Scientist, and two essays selected for the annual Best Writing on Mathematics anthology. You can find these writings and more at http://mbarany.com.

Matt Willis, Connecticut College, on Tuesday, February 9, at 12:30 am in SCP 229

**Title:** The Combinatorics of Counting Catalan Numbers

**Abstract: **In short, Combinatorics is the mathematics of counting. Since most mathematicians are already pretty good at than, combinatorialists focus on counting objects that are of interest in other areas. For example, how many permutations are in the Symmetric group S_{n}? How many possible outcomes does the Powerball lottery drawing have? At the undergraduate level, combinatorics is often viewed as a “fun” subject that uses critical thinking to solve word problems. While that is certainly true, it is also a powerful subject that can use intense mathematics to answer difficult research questions. In this talk we will focus on a few specific counting problems. Some will be geometric or algebraic in nature using only polygons or graphs. For example, the picture below shows all paths in R^{2} made up of length 1 line segments from the origin to (4,4) that do not go above the line *y = x*; there are 14 such paths. (Those conditions seem quite random, we’ll discuss their relevance during the talk.) Other examples will be purely combinatorial involving objects such as “Young diagrams” and “semistandard Young tableaux.” Along the way we will encounter one of the most well-known counts in this subject: the Catalan numbers. No need to study, all of these terms will be introduced from scratch. If time allows, we will also discuss how some of these counts relate to some recent researching this field.

**Bio: **Matt Willis is a pure mathematician who specializes in Algebraic Combinatorics. Specifically, he is interested in the combinatorics of Young tableaux and often their interaction with symmetric functions or polynomials. He graduated from TCNJ in 2006 and owes much of his success to the school’s math faculty. He attended graduate school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, earning a Masters in 2009 and a PhD in 2012. Since then he spent one year teaching at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, and is now currently in his third year teaching at Connecticut College.