5
$\begingroup$

Scientists are often associated together and get famous group names. In physics, I know of

  • Via Panisperna boys (Enrico Fermi and co. working in Rome in nuclear physics)
  • Princeton string quartet (Gross, Harvey, Martinec, and Rohm, working in string theory)
  • Oxford calculators (14th century philosophers working on early mechanics)
  • The Martians (Hungarian scientists working in the Manhattan project like Szilard, von Neumann, Wigner and Teller, plus later other Hungarian mathematicians)

Do you know of any other named famous groups? I could not find a key word on the internet to easily look up for more. Of course, I am excluding formal associations and societies intended to gather more members. Also excluding faculty teams unless they got a popular pseudonym or popular name (like Via Panisperna boys). This question is a [tag:big list] for science and math groups in general not only physics.

$\endgroup$
7
  • 8
    $\begingroup$ Do you consider Nicolas Bourbaki to be such a group? $\endgroup$
    – njuffa
    Nov 24, 2023 at 10:57
  • $\begingroup$ @njuffa oh! I forgot Bourbaki, yes, be free to add Bourbaki and other similar groups $\endgroup$
    – Mauricio
    Nov 24, 2023 at 12:03
  • $\begingroup$ Is Hardy-Littlewood a named group of two mathematicians? $\endgroup$
    – Stef
    Nov 25, 2023 at 6:36
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ There is a movie about the story of the via Panisperna boys. $\endgroup$ Nov 25, 2023 at 7:20
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The Fundamental Fysiks Group was a 70s gaggle of physicists ably described by David Kaiser, MIT historian of science, in his book, How the Hippies Saved Physics: Science, Counterculture, and the Quantum Revival. One publication of the group was Fritjof Capra's Tao of Physics. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fundamental_Fysiks_Group google.com/books/edition/How_the_Hippies_Saved_Physics/… en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tao_of_Physics $\endgroup$
    – DJohnson
    Nov 28, 2023 at 11:49

10 Answers 10

5
$\begingroup$

A famous group of mathematicians, important above all for the development of functional analysis, was the group of the Scottish Café in Lwow, Poland, a group of mathematicians that between the two World Wars gathered at that café around the personality of Stefan Banach.

Through the work of Hugo Steinhaus and Stefan Banach, Lwow had become one of the most important centers of functional analysis, and, in 1929 they founded the journal Studia Mathematica, specialized in functional analysis.

The publication of the journal was interrupted at the beginning of the Second World War, and was resumed in 1948.

A fundamental role had the atmosphere of the Scottish Café, where Banach and his colleagues used to gather, discussing about problems of mathematics.

Stanislaw Ulam recounts that the tables of the café had marble tops, so they could write in pencil on the table during their discussions. To avoid the results to be deleted by the waiter every day, Banach’s wife provided them with a large notebook, which became known as the Scottish Book and was subsequently published.

Among the most well-known attenders of the discussions at the Scottish Café there were Stefan Banach, Hugo Steinhaus, Stanislaw Mazur, Stanislaw Saks, Stanislaw Marcin Ulam.

A recent reconstruction of the history of the mathematicians of the Scottish Café can be found in the paper Chris Zielinski, ‘Mathematicians at the Scottish Café’, (2018). The author’s grandfather Tomasz Zielinski was the owner of the Scottish Café.

$\endgroup$
1
  • $\begingroup$ Famous, yes. Named, not so much. Where in the previous literature are the Lwow mathematicians referred to as the ``Scottish cafe group"? $\endgroup$ yesterday
4
$\begingroup$

If we consider economics to be a science then the group known as the Chicago Boys might be an example. They were a group of Latin American economists, chiefly Chilean, who had prominent political roles. Their name comes from the fact that they had trained in Chicago.

$\endgroup$
1
  • $\begingroup$ …and hence followed a (slightly) heterodox economic tradition, the Chicago School. $\endgroup$
    – Charles
    Nov 24, 2023 at 20:47
4
$\begingroup$

The Vienna Circle (German: Wiener Kreis)

...a group of elite philosophers and scientists drawn from the natural and social sciences, logic and mathematics who met regularly from 1924 to 1936 at the University of Vienna, chaired by Moritz Schlick.
Inner Circle: Gustav Bergmann, Rudolf Carnap, Herbert Feigl, Philipp Frank, Kurt Gödel, Hans Hahn, Olga Hahn-Neurath, Béla Juhos, Felix Kaufmann, Victor Kraft, Karl Menger, Richard von Mises, Otto Neurath, Rose Rand, Josef Schächter, Moritz Schlick, Friedrich Waismann, Edgar Zilsel.
Periphery: Alfred Jules Ayer, Egon Brunswik, Karl Bühler, Josef Frank, Else Frenkel-Brunswik, Heinrich Gomperz, Carl Gustav Hempel, Eino Kaila, Hans Kelsen, Charles W. Morris, Arne Naess, Karl Raimund Popper, Willard Van Orman Quine, Frank P. Ramsey, Hans Reichenbach, Kurt Reidemeister, Alfred Tarski, Olga Taussky-Todd, Ludwig Wittgenstein.

$\endgroup$
4
$\begingroup$

In physics, there are a number of groups referred to as a "Gang of Four" after the notorious leaders of the Chinese Cultural Revolution (1966-76). A (presumably) incomplete list includes:

  • Elihu Abrahams, Philip W. Anderson, Donald Licciardello and T.V. Ramakrishnan who published an influential paper on Anderson localisation: Scaling Theory of Localization: Absence of Quantum Diffusion in Two Dimensions. Phys. Rev. Lett. 42, 673–676 (1979), see e.g. Abraham's Wikipedia page.
  • Raymond "Ray" Sawyer, Robert "Bob" Sugar, James “Jim” Hartle, and Douglas “Doug” Scalapino who founded the Institute for Theoretical Physics at Santa Barbara and are depicted on this photograph.
  • Dick Harting, Wolfram Kittel, Hans Sens and Martinus "Tini" Veltman from NIKHEF, Amsterdam, shown here.
  • Marc Davis, George Efstathiou, Carlos Frenk and Simon White (DEFW) who received the 2011 Cosmology Prize from The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation according to this press release.
  • Chris Hull, Fay Dowker, Jerome Gauntlett and Dan Waldram at Imperial college (per this IOP news article).
  • The Orsay group, A. Le Yaouanc, L. Oliver, O. Pene and J.C. Raynal, who together have 132 joint publications on INSPIRE and were referred to as a "Gang of Four" by F. Yndurain at a conference which I attended some 25 years ago.

Finally, there is the group of three, H. Lehmann, K. Symanzik and W. Zimmermann (LSZ), who were (slightly derogatory) dubbed the "Feldverein" ("field theory club") by Pauli.

$\endgroup$
2
  • $\begingroup$ Why was derogatory to call LSZ Feldverein? It is not stated in that source. $\endgroup$
    – Mauricio
    Nov 28, 2023 at 16:49
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe "derogatory" is too strong a word. But the word "Verein" in German refers to a club whose members meet for leisurely or hobby activities rather than theoretical physics research, say. Pauli was known for his caustic humour... $\endgroup$
    – Tom Heinzl
    Nov 28, 2023 at 17:27
4
$\begingroup$

In inorganic chemistry (say that five times, fast), "Fluorine Martyrs" is a romantic label for the scientists that tried to isolate elemental fluorine. They had many tragic injuries and fatalities before taming the "savage beast" (as the Nobel Prize for Moissan called the element).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_fluorine#Early_isolation_attempts

$\endgroup$
3
$\begingroup$

M. Lothaire (the M. simply stays for "Monsieur", i.e. "Mr.") was the pen name of a group of mathematicians and computer scientists, many of whom were former students of Marcel-Paul Schützenberger. The name is used as the author of three seminal books on the combinatorics of words. Since the members of Lothaire were, at least initially, French, Italian and German, and in view of the fact that its founder, Schützenberger, was the heir to an ancient Alsacian family, was chosen the name of Lothaire I, founder of Middle Francia, an ephemeral kingdom extending from Frisia to northern Italy. The whole history is explained in the Preface of the 1997 edition of Combinatorics on Words:

[...] In his review for the Bulletin of the London Mathematical Society, John Howie had suggested a possible pun on "l'auteur". There is really nothing of this Lacanian type. Lothaire was the grandson of Carolus Magnus [...] he reigned over Lotharingia, a kingdom comprising part of France, Germany and Italy more or less centered in Alsace [...]. It became established that the students of M.-P. Schützenberger, himself of a renowned alsacian family, were citizen of a mythical kingdom of Lotharingia [which actually takes his name from Lothaire II, son of Lothaire I]. There is today a Lotharingian seminar of combinatorics holding frequent meetings in France Germany, and Italy [...]

Lothaire was (and in part it still is) a group structured like Bourbaki, while the following are names used informally and sometimes simply humorously to write some mathematical works, without having a structured group behind them.

Arthur Lancelot Besse was the name of a group of French differential geometers; Blanche Descartes was the name used by R. Leonard Brooks, Arthur Harold Stone, Cedric Smith, and W. T. Tutte to publish some papers in Eureka, a mathematical student magazine in Cambridge; L. T. F. Gamut was the fictitious author of "Logic, Language and Meaning" (vol. 1 & 2), two monography written by the Dutch logicians Johan van Benthem, Jeroen Groenendijk, Dick de Jongh, Martin Stokhof and Henk Verkuyl; G. W. Peck was the pseudonymous used as author (or co-author) of a number of papers in combinatorics (Paul Erdős was one of the actual authors), while John Rainwater is the "author" of important results in functional analysis.

Finally, mention should be made of the Project Polymath, which is a collective mathematical problem-solving project. An online platform enables mathematicians to work together to find a solution to a problem, improve a result, check a proof, etc. The project began in 2009 on Timothy Gowers' blog and has the support of Terence Tao and Michael Nielsen, a specialist in open science.

$\endgroup$
2
  • $\begingroup$ Why is M. Lothaire named after Lothair II, King of Lotharingia? Why didn't they name it after Lothair I, King of Lotharingia, King of Italy, and Emperor, or after Emperor Lothair II? $\endgroup$ Nov 25, 2023 at 19:46
  • $\begingroup$ I've added some explanations; actually M. Lothaire is named after Lothaire I which, however, was not king of Latharingia but of Middle Francia, while Lotharingia takes its name after his son Lothaire II. $\endgroup$
    – user6530
    Nov 25, 2023 at 22:11
3
$\begingroup$

Arthur Besse is not a single person but rather a group of French mathematicians. Their most famous work is a book on Einstein Manifolds. Even if you have the book in your hands it is still nontrivial to see that Arthur Besse is not an actual person.

$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

In addition to the Pythagorean school, cited in nwr's answer, there is an equally famous group of the ancient era, the peripatetics or peripatetic school, which was the name given to the Lyceum of Aristotle.

The peripatetics were a group of students that gathered around the personality of Aristotle, and took its name from the cloister (peripatos) in which they walked and held their discussions. They dealt with philosophical and scientific disciplines, that, of course, were not so distinct as nowadays.

In particular, from a scientific point of view, Aristotle and his disciples dealt not only with physics, but also with biology.

Even if physics, and his treatises collected in Physics, are the most well-known aspect of Aristotle's philosophical and scientific thought, in a subsequent period of his life Aristotle dealt with biology, and his biological researches were the fruit of long and precise studies he carried out, with the collaboration of his disciples, during the twelve years of direction of the Lyceum.

Undoubtedly, even before him [Aristotle] the Greeks had undertaken various inquiries of biological nature, but Aristotle provided a new approach to these researches [...]. We need only recall that, in his works about biology, he speaks of about five hundred animal species, many of them studied with anatomic dissections, drawings of organs, and so on.$^1$

His most important book about biology is Parts of Animals.

The peripatetic Theophrastus, the successor of Aristotle as director of the Lyceum, continued the naturalistic and biological studies of his master, in his treatises Enquiry into Plants (Historia Plantarum) and On the Causes of Plants .

The successor of Theophrastus, the peripatetic Strato of Lampsacus, marked a decisive turning point in the course of studies of the Lyceum, stressing again the physical aspect rather than the biological one of naturalistic philosophy, coming to express the necessity of a rapprochement to Democritus. He attempted to reformulate Aristotle's physics theories on the base of Democritus’ atomism. Several modern scholars consider Strato as the 'highest point of Greek physics': but, unfortunately, we keep of him too little to judge exactly the value of his scientific researches and the meaning of his reinterpretation of Aristotle’s heritage .$^2$


$^1$ Geymonat L., Storia del pensiero filosofico e scientifico. Vol. I, L’antichità e il medioevo (En. tr. History of Philosophic and scientific Thought. Vol. 1, Ancient Era and Middle Age)), Garzanti, 1970, p. 276. My translation.

$^2$ ibid., p. 279

$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

The Fundamental Fysiks Group was a 70s gaggle of physicists ably described by David Kaiser, MIT historian of science, in his book, How the Hippies Saved Physics: Science, Counterculture, and the Quantum Revival. One publication of the group was Fritjof Capra's Tao of Physics.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fundamental_Fysiks_Group

https://www.google.com/books/edition/How_the_Hippies_Saved_Physics/uSOfvQEACAAJ?hl=enhttps://web.mit.edu/dikaiser/www/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tao_of_Physics

$\endgroup$
1
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I was going to say something against this addition which is mostly quantum woo, but then I remembered that there is an important Nobel prize in that list. $\endgroup$
    – Mauricio
    Nov 28, 2023 at 13:52
1
$\begingroup$

Surely the most famous would be the Pythagorean School.

Stories about the school appear in the later doxographical tradition, relying on legends and mystical traditions of a dubious kind. However, Heraclitus, who lived just one generation after Pythagoras, praised the advances they made in mathematics and science. Aristotle wrote a book on the Pythagorean school, now lost. The school lasted for centuries.


Another example is the Kerala School, which is credited with being the first to study infinite series. These include the Taylor series for the important trigonometric functions (centuries before Newton) as well as the geometric series and the Leibniz formula for $\pi$.

$\endgroup$

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.