Mathematical genealogies

In keeping with my recent string of posts on mathematical subjects that aren’t actually math, while procrastinating about packing for my impending move, I got the idea of checking out my mathematical genealogy. Here’s a PDF if you’re curious (I think you can see why I thought a graph would be handy. I was having trouble figuring out who all my mathematical ancestors were).

Those of you who’ve been on the Mathematics Genealogy Project more than once probably know that (depending on how strong you require the advisor-advisee relationship to be) there are 3 major lineages of mathematicians, which one might call the Euler, Gauß, and Chebyshev, after their earliest notable member (EDIT: depending on your preference, you may also want to include a Cayley lineage). They’re visible, for example, in this poster tracing the genealogy of the entire NDSU math faculty. In the early 19th century, these lineages where recognizably French/Swiss (Lagrange, Poisson, Liouville, Hermite, Darboux), German (Weierstraß, Bessel, Dedekind, Riemann, Kummer), and Russian (Lyapunov, Markov), but pretty soon they are start mixing unpredictably: Dirichlet, hence Klein, hence Hilbert are in both the Gauß and Euler lineages. Kolmogorov and Dynkin are descendents of a Russian student of Weierstraß, and thus in the Gauß line.

Amongst our own bloggers here, Noah and I are in the relatively small intersection of the Gauß and Chebyshev lines, A.J. in the Gauß line (all of us through Weierstraß’s Russian connection), Scott M. is in the Euler line, David is in the Klein descendents, Joel in the Gauß and Hodge lines and Scott C. in a much smaller lineage headed by Littlewood (on the whole, the British lineages seem to be much small and fragmented).

You might note that if one had the patience to draw a family tree for all of us, it would be connected except for Scott C. off in the corner. This is not such a common characteristic, I think. (For example, the NDSU diagram doesn’t have this same property. The Chebyshev line is separate in their tree). I seriously doubt anyone has said patience though, unless they are smart enough to write a computer program to do a rough draft. Oh well.

4 thoughts on “Mathematical genealogies

  1. I don’t understand your “3 major lineages of mathematicians” claim. Even if you require weak advisor-advisee relationships there is still at least the following important lineages to add:
    – Cayley british lineage (more than 2000 mathematicians including Hardy, Ramanujan, Coxeter, Penrose, Birch, SRS Varadhan,…)
    – Hodge british lineage (about 250 people including Atiyah, Donaldson, Hitchin, Joyce, Seidel, Kronheimer, Manolecu, Jeffrey…)
    – Denjoy french lineage (more than 200 people including Choquet, Talagrand, Brézis, Lions…)

  2. Of course, “major” is a subjective term: that’s not a comment on the quality of the mathematicians in the lineage, of course, but on it’s size. In this case, Euler and Gauß are a head above the rest at around 40,000 descendents each (though a lot of those are overlap). Chebyshev has over 4700 decsendents, almost two and a half times as many as Cayley. Am I a little biased because I (and many of my colleagues) are descendents of Chebyshev? Probably. Does it actually matter? Not so much.

  3. Thanks, I knew there was something I was forgetting: once I have a New Orleans address (I do now) send away for my poster.

    Oooh, and you’ve got a good one, too…..

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