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Andrea Bréard publishes book on mathematics in China

28. Jan. 2020

Prof. Andrea Bréard, former associate member of the Cluster "Asia and Europe," published a collection of essays titled “Nine Chapters on Mathematical Modernity.” The book, focusing on the modernization of mathematics in China, analyses the developments in the Chinese mathematical culture between the nineteenth and the mid-twentieth century from a transcultural, global-historical perspective.

The volume "Nine Chapters on Mathematical Modernity. Essays on the Global Historical Entanglements of the Science of Numbers in China" addresses the dynamics associated with the modernization of mathematics in China from the nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century. The organization of the book into nine chapters pays homage to the classic book Jiu zhang suan shu, or “Nine Chapters on Mathematical Procedures,” which is considered as the milestone of ancient Chinese mathematics. The essays analyze the complex interactions between different scientific communities and the ways in which a multitude of factors, revolving around the past, modernity, language, and mathematics, were negotiated in a global context. 

Each chapter provides vivid portraits of a series of go-betweens, such as translators, educators, or state statisticians, all based on a vast array of translated primary sources hitherto unavailable to a non-Chinese readership. The topics covered range from discursive modes to number theory, from divination to statistics and data management. Not only does Bréard´s research illustrate how Chinese scholars mediated between new mathematical objects and discursive modes, but it also shows how they instrumentalized their autochthonous scientific roots in specific political and intellectual contexts. The book addresses all readers who are interested in the global and cultural history of science as well as the making of universal mathematics. 


The volume is part of the series on "Transcultural Research – Heidelberg Studies on Asia and Europe in a Global Context," published by Springer. The book series examines processes of cultural exchange in an interdisciplinary way and analyze shifting asymmetries in cultural flows, while eschewing strictly geographical definitions of "Asia" or "Europe." The aim is to stimulate fruitful theoretical debates on the cultural exchange between Asia and Europe from the Bronze Age to the present. Earlier books in this series are available to download here.



Andrea Bréard is professor of History of Science at the Université Paris-Sud (France). She has taught mathematics, history of science, and sinology at the technical universities of Munich and Lille, the École Polytechnique, and the universities of Heidelberg and Frankfurt. She is former associate member of the Cluster of Excellence “Asia and Europe in a Global Context,” located at Heidelberg University. Her main research fields are the history of mathematics, modern China, and combinatorial practices in games and divination in early to pre-modern China.




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