CNRS-NYU Inaugural Workshop on Early Mathematics

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CNRS-NYU Inaugural Workshop on Early Mathematics

November 24 and 25th, 2008

New York University's new Institute for the Study of the 
Ancient World (ISAW) has made a major commitment to the study of the mathematical sciences in antiquity through the appointment of Alexander Jones as Professor of the Exact Sciences in Antiquity. The CNRS research group REHSEIS (Recherches épistémologiques et historiques sur les sciences exactes et les institutions scientifiques) has from its beginnings developed research on mathematics in ancient Asia (China: K. Chemla, India: A. Keller, Mesopotamia: C. Proust).

Within the context of the recently set up NYU—CNRS Center for International Research in the Humanities and Social sciences (UMI 3199), ISAW and REHSEIS intend to join forces and develop a joint research program on the mathematcal sciences in antiquity. The workshop marks the beginning of this collaborative effort. It aims at exploring the hypothesis that resituating mathematical developments in the context of distinct professional groups is an essential goal if we are to restore the variety of mathematical practices in the past and thereby to identify more easily instances and modes of transmission between professional milieus and geographical regions of the ancient Old World.

If you wish to attend the workshop, please contact Alexander Jones (, 212 992-7816). Space is limited.


Monday, November 24, at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, 15 E. 84th Street

9:00 A.M.: Coffee

9:30 A.M. - 1:00 P.M.
  • Karine Chemla (REHSEIS, CNRS & University Paris Diderot P. 7)
    Introductory words
  • Christine Proust (REHSEIS)
    Structure of series texts: a new approach of cuneiform mathematical corpus
  • John Steele (Brown University)
    Shadows in Babylonian Astronomy
  • Agathe Keller (REHSEIS)
    Reflecting on the different social groups that produced mathematical knowledge and texts in ancient India: different research perspectives, with a special emphasis on the history of versified problems and the perspective they open.
1:00 P.M. - 2:30 P.M.: Lunch (buffet)

2:30 P.M. - 6:00 P.M.
  • Toke Knudsen (SUNY)
    The Direction of Down and Adhesive Antipodeans: Tradition and Innovation in Medieval Indian Astronomy
  • Michio Yano (Kyoto Sangyo University)
    Buddhist astronomy and astrology
  • Karine Chemla (REHSEIS)
    Writing down texts for algorithms: views from ancient China
Tuesday, November 25, at the NYU/CNRS International Research Center, 4 Washington Square North, 2nd floor

9:30 A.M. - 1:00 P.M.
  • Alexander Jones (ISAW, NYU)
    Introductory words
  • Markus Asper (NYU)
    Narratives in Greek Mathematics?
  • Joe Dauben (CUNY)
    Archimedes and Liu Hui on Circles and Spheres
  • Alexander Jones (ISAW, NYU)
    Parapegma puzzles: reconstructing Greek documents on stellar risings and setting