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Data-Mining Algorithm Reveals the Stormy Evolution of Mathematics Over 700 Years

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Mathematicians of the last 700 years, mapped by mathmatical discipline.

Researchers at the University of Namur are using network science to map the links between mathematicians of the last 700 years.

Credit: University of Namur

University of Namur researcher Floriana Gargiulo and colleagues are using network science to map the links between mathematicians of the last 700 years to understand how the discipline of mathematics has evolved and spread.

They analyzed the Mathematical Genealogy Project database listing each scientist's dates, geographical location, mentors, students, and discipline.

The analysis began by using a machine-learning algorithm to check and update the data against other sources of information, and then the researchers built a network in which each scientist was a node and connections existed when one was a mentor or student of another.

The team analyzed the resulting webs to detect in-network clusters, tipping points, and influential nodes. Standard clustering algorithms determined math can be split into 84 family trees, and 65 percent of the scientists in the database are derived from only 24 of these trees. The biggest tree originated in 1415 under the mentorship of a medical doctor in Italy, while countries' specific roles in producing mathematicians and how this has shifted over time was revealed.

Other notable trends included the tendency for science-poor nations to import mathematicians, while those with a stronger math tradition are exporters.

Another key finding concerns the merger of math fields into new disciplines, such as statistics and probability's integration between 1930 and 1940.

From Technology Review
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Abstracts Copyright © 2016 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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