Math Genealogy, https://www.genealogy.math.ndsu.nodak.edu/search.php is a funny site which aims at listing all PhD's in mathematics, with years, place, titles and advisers. Of course it cannot be complete in any sense. But here is a strange thing that I discovered: numbers of PhD by country in each century (the countries are assigned there according to the modern political map).

17 century: Germany 250, Netherlands 85, Switerland 23, Italy 16, England 15, France 13.

18 century: Germany 317, Netherlands 122, England 24, France 14, Switzerland 8, Italy 7, Austria 7.

19 century: Germany 1563, Netherlands 214, USA 214, France 71, Austria 66, Switzerland 54, England 37, Italy 35.

What conclusions can one make from this statistics? That most of mathematics (by far!) in 17-19 century was done in Germany? That Germans (and Dutch) are more likely to report the data then French or British? That Germans and Dutch are better in keeping historical records? Or what?

  • 2
    A few data points: first, my intermittent experience is that non-U.S. PhD's (e.g., in France, Germany, USSR/Russia) are not reliably reported/documented. Second, my impression is that some non-U.S. people do or have thought that the project is too U.S.-centric, (hm, some circularity...) and have not engaged with it. – paul garrett Sep 13 at 21:31
  • 1
    If the Genealogy Project leans toward the US, then the reasons for German dominance in the figures quoted would be: those with German Ph.D.s where more likely to emigrate to the US than those with French or English Ph.D.s ?? – Gerald Edgar Sep 14 at 0:41
  • 1
    A futher caveat about the MGP: both my father and my maternal grandfather, neither of whom is/was in any sense a mathematician (my father is a physicist who published one paper that could be considered mathematics as such, and my grandfather was an inorganic chemist) are listed in the MGP (along with some of their students who are also probably not reasonably considered mathematicians). So the ambit of the coverage of the MGP is not well defined or clear. I communicated these things to the MGP and they simply didn't care. – Dan Fox Sep 14 at 8:40
  • 3
    Nobody got PhDs in the UK until the 20th century, and even then it wasn't strictly necessary until the 50s. Freeman Dyson is a living example. The examples in the Math Genealogy project before the 20th century, and many in the early 20th century, involve "creative interpretation". For example, for Francis Galton, it lists William Hopkins, the man who coached him for his undergraduate exams (the Tripos), as his advisor. For Newton, it lists Barrow as his advisor, even though there was no formal arrangement. – Robert Furber Sep 14 at 11:02
  • 2
    I think the reason for the prominence of Germany and the Netherlands is that in those countries it has been required for quite some time to have a PhD in order to teach at a university. – Robert Furber Sep 14 at 11:03

Your Answer

 

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.