A perfect example would be Srinivasa Ramanujan.

It is known that the conventional community throughout history have been close-minded towards great men of science and mathematics (e.g., Galileo).

Srinivasa Ramanujan being one of them. Einstein is another one.

A lot of history's math and science problems were solved in what would have been considered heresy.

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    $\begingroup$ Ramanujan was not ignored. He was invited to England, where he did some outstanding work with Hardy. $\endgroup$ Mar 29, 2019 at 1:45
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    $\begingroup$ This is way too broad for a reasonable answer. Ignored when and by whom? For how long? They were, obviously, not ignored forever, if we now remember their names as the "top". There are innumerable examples of mathematicians who were "ahead of their time" in some or all of their work, e.g. Madhava, Leibniz, Galois, Bolzano, even Euler (non-standard analysis, graph theory) and Poincare (algebraic topology). $\endgroup$
    – Conifold
    Mar 29, 2019 at 10:02
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    $\begingroup$ Einstein was ignored? In what alternate universe (which he may or may not have agreed could exist)? $\endgroup$ Mar 29, 2019 at 12:56
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    $\begingroup$ Grassmann comes to mind. $\endgroup$ Mar 30, 2019 at 10:15
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    $\begingroup$ Einstein was not ignored and recognized rather quickly. His work on special relativity was published in 1905 and was recognized after 1905. He became international renowned after the solar eclipse experiment in 1919. $\endgroup$ Mar 31, 2019 at 2:15

3 Answers 3


Georg Cantor was a German mathematician who created set theory that has become a fundamental theory in mathematics. However, his original work on infinity and ordinal number was considered unconventional or even unorthodox, which was under heavy attacks from some of the famous contemporary mathematicians for a long time.

Another example is Charles Sanders Pierce, an American philosopher and logician who made important contributions to logic, relation theory, pragmatism, semiotics and so on. But his work was largely ignored in his lifetime and he could not even find an academic position. Only after the 1920s, his original work was rediscovered that he is recognized as one of the most original and versatile of American philosophers and America's greatest logicians.

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    $\begingroup$ Cantor's work was criticized but certainly not IGNORED. $\endgroup$ Nov 22, 2019 at 2:06
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, it was initially ignored because Cantor's papers could not be published in major journals at that time. But fortunately, his work was widely accepted after 1897, when Cantor received high praises in the first ICM. So his work was recognized before his death which is a good fortune. $\endgroup$ Nov 22, 2019 at 17:53

Hermann Cäsar Hannibal Schubert invented what is called "Schubert calculus" (publ. in 1879). His highly original method was not sufficiently justified. One of the Hilbert problems (1900) was to justify Schubert Calculus. This was achieved in principle in the 1920s and the interest to the Schubert Calculus declined, and it was never very strong before that.

It experienced a strong revival in the 1970s when mathematicians started to check and re-compute Schubert's results sometimes using computers. Nowadays it is a vigorously developing area of mathematics with many applications inside and outside mathematics. Schubert's book has been recently reprinted. Schubert himself was not sufficiently recognized in his lifetime and worked as a high school (gymnasium) teacher.

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    $\begingroup$ OK, but what is unconventional, and what evidence is there that it was ignored on those grounds, rather than simply not being complete, or not having a known application? $\endgroup$ Mar 29, 2019 at 12:57

Not necessarily ignored, but A. Robinson's non standard analysis wasn't much well-received either, most probably because he relied on metamathematical machinery to set it up

  • $\begingroup$ Non standard analysis is not recognized as today, and probably will not forever. $\endgroup$ Apr 18, 2019 at 17:33
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    $\begingroup$ @MathWizard: To the contrary, NSA is a well-established and recognized area of mathematics, just it requires too much background in logic (model theory) to be taught to undergraduates in most places. It is also occasionally useful even for proving theorems in "standard" areas of mathematics such as group theory. See for instance, "The Nonstandard Treatment of Hilbert's Fifth Problem", by Joram Hirschfeld, Transactions of AMS, Vol. 321, No. 1 (1990), pp. 379-400. Or: "Gromov's theorem on groups of polynomial growth and elementary logic", by L. van den Dries and A. Wilkie. $\endgroup$ Nov 8, 2019 at 14:16
  • $\begingroup$ @Moishe Kohan, I disagree with you on NSA is a well-established and recognized area of mathematics. Except for a few proofs as you mentioned, it has found no use in Calculus in general. The reason could be that infinitesimal is fundamentally different from number, and so can not be put into an extended field of number. Even one of its biggest contributors, Jerome Keisler acknowledged this fact. $\endgroup$ Nov 8, 2019 at 18:05

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