Sunday, July 24, 2005

Shoulders of Giants

The Mathematics Genealogy Project keeps a record of the academic genealogy of mathematicians (and almost-mathematicians). I looked up my genealogy and was surprised to find, a few steps up the tree, French and German mathematicians from several centuries ago who are household names today (ok, atleast if your household consists of mathematicians, scientists or engineers):
my advisor
: (six generations)
Felix Klein
/ \
Julius Plucker Lipschitz
| / \
Christian Gerling Dirichlet Ohm
| / \ |
Carl Gauss Poisson Fourier Langsdorf
| \ /
Johann Pfaff Lagrange
| |
Abraham Kaestner Leonhard Euler
| |
Hausen Johann Bernoulli
| |
Wichmannshauser Jacob Bernoulli
| |
Mencke Gottfried Leibniz
Perhaps this is a bit premature as I haven't actually got my PhD yet. Still, it's humbling and inspiring to have these giants as academic ancestors.


Blogger Bdeshini said...

In response to Newton's quote:
If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.
Hal Abelson is quoted to have said:
If I have not seen as far as others, it is because giants were standing on my shoulders.

7/26/2005 07:56:00 PM  
Blogger ashvin said...

That's funny. I'd use it if I could claim that there were people (giants or not) standing on my shoulders.

Incidentally, Abelson's textbook was one of the first books I bought in college and it's still lying on my shelf (albeit unopened for several years).

7/26/2005 08:11:00 PM  
Blogger Sunil said...

Absolutely, Asvin....

It's a humbling feeling, and also inspires you to do more.

My own ancestry:
Me (worthless grad student who goofs too much)
Advisor (member, National Academy of Sciences, giant in field)
Advisor's post-doc mentor (Nobel Prize in Medicine)
Advisor's grad school mentor (Nobel Prize in Chemistry)
Advisor's advisor's advisors (Pioneering chemists, who started what was perhaps the earliest studies in biochemistry...(both cases))

7/27/2005 04:50:00 PM  
Blogger Bdeshini said...

If I ever get to meet Hal Abelson, I'll have to remember to ask him about the giants on his shoulders. . .

Just from watching A Beautiful Mind and Goodwill Hunting, aren't mathematicians kind of crazy?

7/28/2005 04:28:00 PM  
Blogger ashvin said...

But Sunil, in the old days they didn't have other important things to do --- like blogging. :)

7/29/2005 02:02:00 PM  
Blogger ashvin said...

Mathematicians, crazy ? They'd probably prefer "eccentric".

Then again, there's Theodore Kaczynski PhD (Math, UMich).

7/29/2005 02:04:00 PM  

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