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In 1962, a paper called “Multiplication of Many-Digital Numbers by Automatic Computers”, by Anatoly Karatsuba and Yuri Ofman, was published at the Proceedings of the USSR Academy of Sciences. It was here that the Karatsuba multiplication algorithm appeared for the first time. However, Karatsuba himself had nothing to do with the writing of the paper. It was actually written by Kolmogorov (probably with the collaboration of Ofman), and Karatsuba only became aware of that when he was given the reprints that were due to him.

I wonder whether there is some other known example, in Mathematics or in Theoretical Physics, of a situation in which a paper is published on behalf of a person who could have published it themself, without that person being aware of that until the paper was published. So, I am not talking about, for instance, papers that were published after their author died, or something like that.

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In theoretical physics, the celebrated 1948 Alpher–Bethe–Gamow paper, or αβγ paper on cosmic nucleosynthesis.

Bethe's name was thrown in, unbeknownst to him, at first, as a practical joke, for which G Gamow was notorious, to rhyme with the Greek alphabet; but it is not as though his friend Bethe, the pioneer of nucleosynthesis, was alien to the field.

The inveterate perpetrator, Gamow, described in his 1952 book The Creation of the Universe, 1952 (Dover, ISBN-13: ‎978-0486438689),

The results of these calculations were first announced in a letter to The Physical Review, April 1, 1948. This was signed Alpher, Bethe, and Gamow, and is often referred to as the 'alphabetical article'. It seemed unfair to the Greek alphabet to have the article signed by Alpher and Gamow only, and so the name of Dr. Hans A. Bethe (in absentia) was inserted in preparing the manuscript for print. Dr. Bethe, who received a copy of the manuscript, did not object, and, as a matter of fact, was quite helpful in subsequent discussions. There was, however, a rumor that later, when the alpha, beta, gamma theory went temporarily on the rocks, Dr. Bethe seriously considered changing his name to Zacharias. The close fit of the calculated curve and the observed abundances is shown in Fig. 15, which represents the results of later calculations carried out on the electronic computer of the National Bureau of Standards by Ralph Alpher and R. C. Herman (who stubbornly refuses to change his name to Delter).

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Probably the most famous historical example is the Tartaglia-Cardano affair, where Cardano published the solution to a case of depressed cubic he learned from Tartaglia in Ars Magna after swearing on the Gospels not to do it, see e.g. Feldmann, The Cardano-Tartaglia Dispute and Why is "Cardano's Formula" (wrongly) attributed to him? Tartaglia was saving the gem for his own book that he never quite got around to writing. Cardano's justification was that del Ferro already knew the solution before Tartaglia. However, he did not share it and Tartaglia discovered his independently, along with an additional case of depressed cubic.

This said, Cardano credited del Ferro and Tartaglia, and did quite a bit more than both of them combined, providing a comprehensive analysis of the general cubic. However, he could not make it public without revealing the key Tartaglia provided, that he repeatedly tried and failed to find himself. The situation is somewhat reminiscent of what happened with Kolmogorov and Karatsuba, see Was Kolmogorov enraged after learning about the Karatsuba multiplication algorithm? Having one's name attached, in some form, to a key result in the area where one spent much effort might seem fair, even if they failed to obtain the result themselves. Especially when non-publication by the original author holds up emergence of the big picture that frames their own contributions.

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I have a paper with 5 co-authors which was written and submitted to a journal without my approval, and even without notifying me about it. The editor handling the paper informed me about it but it was published without my approval. The good outcome was that as a result of this paper my Erdos number is 2 because one of the 5 co-authors was a co-author of Erdos.

I have also another paper published by my co-author without my approval, but it was a "recreational math" paper.

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If the film 'The Man Who Knew Infinity' is to be believed, Hardy submitted Ramanujan's paper on highly divisible integers without his (Ramanujan's) knowledge.

In more detail, in his book 'The Man ho Knew Infinity: a Life of the Genius Ramanujan, Robert Kanigel states that the paper Ramanujan, S. (1915). "Highly composite numbers" ). Proc. London Math. Soc. Series 2. 14: 347–409. (1915) was submitted by Hardy without Ramanujan's knowledge.

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  • $\begingroup$ Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center. $\endgroup$
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    Jan 14 at 0:58
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to our community! How did you find this question? Your account is "unregistered" by the way. $\endgroup$ Jan 14 at 0:58
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    $\begingroup$ This may be unlikely. According to Highly Composite Numbers, Ramanujan paid for its publication, but only submitted an abridged version in order to save money. The paper also states that Hardy did not have a high opinion of the subject: Hardy writing that he considering it to be a "backwater of mathematics". $\endgroup$
    – nwr
    Jan 14 at 5:58
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Thanks to Google Scholar, I found out that my name was listed on this 2014 paper without the knowledge of any of the listed co-authors (including myself). I do know the listed co-authors (including the person who published the paper online), and had been working on projects with them, but I did not know that a paper with this title was posted online without me first having the chance to proofread it and correct any errors before they became visible to the public.

This sometimes (unfortunately) happens when some people are a bit too excited about displaying their work, and cannot wait for others to first approve of the paper. Perhaps they worry that the others will not immediately approve of the paper, and will want to make improvements before publishing it, which will cause delays. Perhaps they are applying for something and want to beef up their "apparent" publication list, maybe because they've had a quiet year.

Another thing that often happens is that a co-author is indeed aware of the paper and that it was submitted for publication, but the proofs get approved without their knowledge or approval. This happens so often that I would be surprised if no one with a lot of collaborators has experienced it. This also happened to me on a 2015 version of the above-mentioned 2014 paper :)

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  • $\begingroup$ Quite interesting. Thanks for sharing! $\endgroup$ 2 days ago
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Not sure if it counts, but the name of Kolmogorov certainly reminded me that according Yaglom (A. N. Kolmogorov as a Fluid Mechanician and Founder of a School in Turbulence Research) Obukhov only learned about his important contributions to the theory of local structure of turbulence being incorporated into the manuscript published by Kolmogorov at a colloquium in Marseilles on the spot, because Obukhov flew by an aeroplane and Kolmogorov took the train.

The seminal paper is actually only authored by Kolmogorov but states on the first page "However, Oboukhov has now discovered how to refine our previous results in a way which takes Landau's comments into consideration. The method consists in...". The same issue contains a paper based on a lecture by Obukhov and they are closely related. Not sure if both are a joint work or if only the former.

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  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to this community FORTRAN King! $\endgroup$ Jan 14 at 19:39
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks you, Nike! $\endgroup$
    – Vladimir F
    Jan 14 at 20:33

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