Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS: http://ethos.bl.uk/OrderDetails.do?uin=uk.bl.ethos.549914
Title: You fight your way, I fight my way : Wu Wen-Tsun and traditional Chinese mathematics
Author: Hudecek, Jiri
ISNI:       0000 0004 2713 8018
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2012
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Abstract:
This dissertation is about a modern Chinese mathematician’s use of traditional Chinese mathematics. Wu Wen-Tsun (born 1919), a French-trained algebraic topologist, became interested in Chinese mathematical heritage in the Cultural Revolution period (1966-1976). He claimed that his subsequent, internationally acclaimed work on the “mechanisation of mathematics” (computer proofs) was inspired by this historical interest. He thus situated his mathematical success within a nationalist framework of independent modernisation, and has become a government-promoted celebrity since the turn of the millennium. Against the standard ‘national hero’ story told about Wu, I portray his turn to the history of Chinese mathematics as a sophisticated response to political, institutional and ideological pressures on mathematics in post-1949 Maoist China. I integrate a biographical account of Wu’s career with in-depth studies of the content and influence of his mathematical work to show the fluctuations of his fortunes since his return to China in 1952. Wu as an individual shared the fate of the Institute of Mathematics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, where he worked between 1952 and 1977. I argue that Wu’s philosophy of mathematics was shaped by the utilitarianism preached by the Communist Party of China, which caused excesses especially during the Great Leap Forward (1958-1960), but remained a feature of Chinese science policy even afterwards. After the research hiatus of the Cultural Revolution, Wu consciously linked his research to ideology. His parallel mathematical research and history-writing since 1977 have reflected the same philosophy of mathematics and the same concerns about modernisation, national development, and independence. The dissertation uses unpublished archival material from China and first-hand interviews with Wu Wen-Tsun and other Chinese mathematicians. I relate Wu’s mathematical nationalism to theories of cultural nationalism and historicism from the political sciences, and theoretically analyse the contradiction between nationalism and internationalism in modern Chinese mathematics.
Supervisor: Robson, Eleanor ; Jami, Catherine Sponsor: Needham Research Institute ; Cambridge European Trust
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID: uk.bl.ethos.549914  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Wu Wen-Tsun ; Twentieth-century Chinese mathematics ; History of mathematics and nationalism
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