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uni'wissen 01(3)-2011_ENG

Dr. Andrea Albrecht studied German, philosophy, and mathematics in Bremen, Hamburg, and Göttingen. In 2003 she earned her PhD at the University of Göttingen with a dissertation on dis- courses of the global citizen in philosophy, literature, and journalism. From 2002 to 2003 she worked as ­research assistant at the Göttingen Academy of Sci- ences. She then spent two and a half years as a visiting ­scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, USA. ­Albrecht has served as re- search assistant and post- graduate research group leader (Emmy Noether ­Program of the German ­Research Foundation) at the Department of German II of the University of Freiburg since 2007, and she has conducted research at the School of Language and ­Literature at FRIAS since 2008. Her research interests include the relationship ­between exact science (particularly mathematics), literature, and cultural theory. In addition to journals from around the year 1900 and novels and plays from the early 20th century, Albrecht also studies non-literary texts from as early as the 17th century. For instance, mathematicians addressed their colleagues from philosophy in the prefaces to scholarly tracts. In the 18th and 19th centuries, representatives of different disciplines often encountered one an- other when university administrators gave speeches on the occasion of their installment in office and engaged in self-promotion for their discipline, without, however, always sparking a controversy. Even seminal intellectual figures like Immanuel Kant and Moses Mendelssohn ex- pressed their admiration for the peaceful nature of mathematicians while deriding their fellow phi- losophers for their ill temper. “These two oppos- ing poles do not accurately reflect the reality of the times,” explains Albrecht. “If you examine the history of mathematics more closely, you’ll find that mathematicians were not harmonious at all. They engaged in heated debates. But the history books gloss over these incidents. Mathemati- cians who argue, like Thomas Hobbes, aren’t re- garded as ‘real mathematicians’ and are later ex- cluded.” To this day, Hobbes is known primarily as a political theorist and philosopher, not for his mathematical ambitions. Mathematicians: The Best Soldiers Aggressive, heroic, tough: The public image of mathematicians changed in the 1920s and the 1930s. Germany was preparing for war, looking for the best and most able soldiers: “Here, again, it was thought that science strengthens one’s character,” says Albrecht. “Young academics were expected to develop a national conscious- ness, an ethos.” Mathematicians had a reputa- tion for being particularly strong-willed and de- pendable the “soldierly nature” became an educational and political ideal. At the turn of the 20th century mathematics had been regarded as a science with little or no relevance for daily life, but now it was suddenly in great demand: The Third Reich needed statis- ticians for casualties, insurance, or investiga- tions of firearms. National Socialist academics were also suffusing the academic world with their ideology. “The 1930s saw the founding of ‘German mathematics,’ with all of the anti-Semit- ic connotations the term implies.” The goal was to banish all Jews from the field of mathematics and shape a racist ideal of the German scientist. Jewish mathematicians like Emmy Noether were accused of being too abstract and theoretical in contrast to German mathematicians, who were purported to be clear and intuitive. In practice, of course, they worked in quite the same way, but what mattered was how they presented them- selves. “Modern mathematics would not have been possible without Emmy Noether, and the Germans knew that. But instead of citing Noether they cited their own henchmen. They were aware that, from a scientific perspective, their ‘German mathematics’ had lost.” Further Reading Albrecht, A. (in print): „Allezeit unparteiliche Gemüther“? – Formen und Funktionen des St- reitens über Mathematik im 17. und 18. Jahr­ hundert. In: Bremer, K. / Spoerhase, C. (Eds.): Zeitsprünge. Forschungen zur Frühen Neuzeit, Sonderband: Gelehrte Polemik. ­Typen und Techniken wissenschaft­licher Konfliktführung in der respublica litte­raria des 17. und 18. Jahr- hunderts. Albrecht, A. (2009): Mathematisches Wissen und historisches Erzählen: Michael Köhl­meiers Roman „Abendland“. In: Gegenwarts­literatur. Ein germanistisches Jahrbuch 8, p. 192 – 217. Albrecht, A. (2008): Mathematische und ­ästhetische Moderne. Zu Robert Musils Essay „Der mathematische Mensch“. In: Scientia ­Poetica 12, p. 218–250. 27uni'wissen 03