Archive for the 'Matherati' Category Page 2 of 5



The Matherati: Matthew Piers Watt Boulton

Matthew Piers Watt Boulton (1820-1894) was the eldest grandson of the great engineer Matthew Boulton, and was named for James Watt, his grandfather’s partner-in-steam.   He inherited significant wealth and attended Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge, where his first tutor was the mathematician George Peacock (1791-1858), undergraduate friend of Charles Babbage and Alexander d’Arblay.    At Cambridge, Boulton studied mathematics, logic, and classics. He declined to apply for scholarships, despite his evident ability and in the face of entreaties from his tutor and his father, on the grounds that they bred unpleasant competitiveness – perhaps he was someone after my own heart.  It is likely that, for the same reason, he did not sit the Tripos examinations.

 

He was however of strong mathematical bent.  In 1868, he patented a method for lateral control of aircraft in flight, inventing what are now called ailerons.  Being a gentleman of wealth and leisure, he was able to read and write at will, and published translations of classic literature, some poetry, and pamphlets on solar energy, in addition to a work on aircraft stability.   Kinzer (2009) makes a compelling case for him also being the author of several works of philosophy published by someone calling himself “M. P. W. Bolton,” mostly in the 1860s.

Kinzer quotes the following words from Boulton’s paper,  “Has a Metaphysical Society any raison d’etre?”, read to a meeting of the Metaphysical Society, held at the Grosvenor Hotel on 9 April 1874 and chaired by William Gladstone:

There is no question, however apparently non-metaphysical, which may not be pursued till we come to the Metaphysical.  The question of whether Tarquin lived, and whether Lucretia committed suicide, is about as non-metaphysical as any question can be: yet disputants engaged in its discussion may persist till they open up the general question of the credibility of testimony; and this may open that of the credibility of memory, the nature of belief, what grounds we have for believing the existence of other persons, and an external world . . .  Whenever we try to bottom a question or subject, to use Locke’s word (the French word would be “approfondir”) then Metaphysics come in sight  . . . Every sentence involves, in some shape or other, the verb “to be”, and this, if pursued long enough, leads to the heart of Metaphysics  . . . Scientific persons often speak of Metaphysics  with scorn, calling them an Asylum Ignorantiae, useful enough to the vulgar, but in no way needed by themselves.  They imagine their science to be perfectly luminous, far above the lower regions where Metaphysical mists prevail.  But in reality they share the common lot:  the ideas of Force, Law, Cause, Substance, Causal or Active Matter, all dwell in the region of metaphysical twilight, not in the luminous ether. “

 

References:

For some reason, reading the quoted passage brought to mind Richard Dawkins and memes.

I am grateful to Bruce Kinzer for some information here.

There is an index here to posts about members of the Matherati.

Billie Andrew Inman [1991]:  Pater’s Letters at the Pierpont Morgan Library.  English Literature in Transition, 1880-1920, 34 (4):401-417.

Bruce Kinzer [1979]: In search of M.P.W. Bolton. Notes and Queries, n.s., 26 (August 1979): 310-313.

Bruce Kinzer [2009]:  Flying under the radar:  The strange case of Matthew Piers Watt Boulton. Times Literary Supplement, 1 May 2009, pp. 14-15.




Vale Dennis Ritchie (1941-2011)

A post to note the passing on of Dennis Ritchie (1941-2011), co-developer of C programming language and of the Unix operating system.  The Guardian’s obituary is here, a brief note from Wired Magazine here, and John Naughton’s tribute in the Observer here.    So much of modern technology we owe to just a few people, and Ritchie was one of them.

An index to posts about the Matherati is here.




In memoriam: Christophe Bertrand

This post is a memorial to my friend Christophe Bertrand (1981.04.24 – 2010.09.17), a young French composer and pianist who died a year ago this month.   I first heard his chamber work, Treis, at a concert by Manchester-based new music group Ensemble 11 ten years ago.   Impressed by this music, I contacted him and we began a long and deep friendship, discussing his music, along with music and life more generally. 

I had the honour and good fortune to be able to commission some music from him (Quartet #1 and Arashi).   Christophe’s compositions were marked by the use of Fibonacci sequences and other mathematical patterns and constructs, and so I recognized a fellow member of the matherati.  An early death is always sad, especially of someone whose life had had such achievement and even more promise.

Christophe co-founded a contemporary chamber ensemble, Ensemble in Extremis, and there are details of his works and prizes here.  Also, this site seems to have updated information about performances of his music, although without  mentioning his passing on.   The composer Pascal Dusapin has dedicated his work, Microgrammes (2011), 7 pieces for string trio, to Christophe.

I think of all the conversations and interactions we had, and feel the pain of losing future conversations which can now not occur.  And I recall George Santayana’s poem on the death of a close friend, here

Below I list Christophe’s complete works and works in preparation (derived from his former website,  here).   One work listed there, Dall’inferno, Christophe told me he intended to retract from his catalog, after some of the performers found the score too difficult to play.

POSTSCRIPT (2013-05-27):   Someone has uploaded to Youtube a recording of a performance by the Mangalam Trio of Virya along with co-ordinated images of the score.  That is a nice tribute.

POSTSCRIPT 2 (2013-10-31):  The Music of Today series at London’s Royal Festival Hall, curated by Unsuk Chin, held a free concert by players from the Philharmonia Orchestra led by Alejo Perez of Christophe’s works on 31 October 2013.  Works performed were:  Virya, Madrigal, and Yet.   About 100 people were present.  I wondered if anyone else in the audience knew him, and felt his loss.  Here is a review by Sofia Gkiousou, who had not heard Christophe’s music before this concert, and to whom the music spoke.

POSTSCRIPT 3 (2014-01-21):  A concert to remember Christophe was held in Paris last night, with his music performed by his group, Ensemble in Extremis, and Ensemble Court-circuit.   How difficult it must have been for his former colleagues to play his music last night?  But what an honour to do so.  Details here.

 

CHRISTOPHE BERTRAND LIST OF WORKS:

Works in Preparation:

O K H T O R  pour orchestre (15′)
Commande du Mécénat musical Société Générale
Création 11 février 2011
Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg ; dir. Marc ALBRECHT

Q U A T U O R  I I   pour  quatuor à cordes (15′)
Commande du Festival Musica pour le Quatuor ARDITTI
Création au Festival Musica 2011

A R K A  pour soprano, cor, violon et piano (12′)
Texte original de Yannick Haenel
Commande de l’Orchestre National d’Ile-de-France avec le soutien de la SACEM
Ensemble des Musiciens de l’Orchestre National d’Ile-de France ; Françoise KUBLER, soprano
Création mai 2012 – Festival Iles de découvertes

Nouvelle Œuvre pour clarinette, violon et piano (12′)
Commande de l’Ensemble Accorche-Note
Création à définir

 

Completed and acknowledged works:

A y a s (2010) Fanfare pour onze cuivres et percussions (2′)
Commande de l’Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg
A Cristina Rocca
Création mondiale : novembre 2010, Palais de la Musique et des Congrès de Strasbourg – Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg

S c a l e s (2008-2009) pour grand ensemble (20′)
Co-commande de l’Ensemble Intercontemporain et du Concertgebouw d’Amsterdam
A Susanna Mällki et les musiciens de l’Ensemble Intercontemporain
Création mondiale : 24 avril 2010, Concertgebouw d’Amsterdam – Ensemble Intercontemporain, dir. Susanna Mälkki
Première allemande : 9 mai 2010, Philharmonie de Cologne – Ensemble Intercontemporain, dir. Susanna Mälkki

D i a d è m e (2008), pour soprano, clarinette et piano (9′)
Commande de l’Ensemble Accroche-Note
A Frédéric Durieux
Création mondiale : 5 ocotbre 2010, Festival Musica – Françoise Kubler, soprano; Ensemble Accroche-Note

S a t k a (2008), pour flûte, clarinette, violon, violoncelle, percussions et piano (13′)
Commande du Festival d’Aix-en-Provence
A Jean-Dominique Marco
Création mondiale : 11 juillet 2008, Festival d’Aix-en-Provence – Jérémie Siot (vn), Florian Lauridon (vc), Cédric Jullion (fl), Jérôme Comte (cl), Jean-Marie Cottet (pno), François Garnier (pc), Guillaume Bourgogne, direction.
© Edizioni Suvini Zerboni/SugarMusic S.p.A, Milano

H a ï k u (2008) pour piano (6′)
Commande d’Ars Mobilis, pour le festival “Les Solistes aux Serres d’Auteuil”
Création mondiale : 31 août 2008 – Festival des Serres d’Auteuil – Ferenc Vizi (piano)
© Edizioni Suvini Zerboni/SugarMusic S.p.A, Milano

D a l l ‘ i n f e r n o (2008), pour flûte, alto et harpe (9′) (Retracted:  see note above)
Commande du Musée du Louvre
non encore créé
© Edizioni Suvini Zerboni/SugarMusic S.p.A, Milano

A r a s h i (2008), pour alto seul (5′)
Commande de P. Mc Burney
A Peter Mc Burney et Vincent Royer
non encore créé
© Edizioni Suvini Zerboni/SugarMusic S.p.A, Milano

K a m e n a i a (2008), pour douze voix solistes (6′)
Commande de l’Ensemble Musicatreize
A Roland Hayrabedian et l’Ensemble Musicatreize
Création mondiale : 15 mai 2008 – Marseille, Eglise Saint-Charles – Ensemble Musicatreize, dir. Roland HAYRABEDIAN
© Edizioni Suvini Zerboni/SugarMusic S.p.A, Milano

H e n d e k a (2007), pour violon, alto, violoncelle et piano (11′)
Commande du Festival “Les Musicales”
A Bruno Mantovani
Création mondiale : 10 mai 2008 – Colmar, Les Musicales – Ilya Gringolts (vn), Silvia Simionescu (al), Marc Coppey (vc), Claire-Marie Le Guay (pno)
© Edizioni Suvini Zerboni/SugarMusic S.p.A, Milano

V e r t i g o (2006-2007), pour 2 pianos et orchestre (20′)
Commande de l’Etat Français et du Festival Musica
Création mondiale : 20 septembre 2008 – Strasbourg, Festival Musica – Hideki Nagano, Sébastien Vichard (pnos) – Orchestre Philharmonique de Liège, dir. Pascal ROPHÉ
© Edizioni Suvini Zerboni/SugarMusic S.p.A, Milano

S a n h (2006), pour clarinette basse, violoncelle et piano (11′)
Commande de l’Etat Français
A Armand Angster
Création mondiale : 11 octobre 2007 – Strasbourg, Festival Musica / Ensemble Accroche-Note
© Edizioni Suvini Zerboni/SugarMusic S.p.A, Milano

Q u a t u o r (n°1) (2005-2006), pour quatuor à cordes (20′)
Commande du Beethovenfest de Bonn et de M. P. McBurney
Dédié au Quatuor Arditti
Création mondiale : 19 mars 2006 – Bruxelles, Festival Ars Musica – Quatuor Arditti
Création française : 20 juillet 2006 – Festival d’Aix-en-Provence – Quatuor Arditti
Création mondiale de la première version : 24 septembre 2005 – Kunstmuseum Bonn – Mandelring Quartett
© Edizioni Suvini Zerboni/SugarMusic S.p.A, Milano

M a n a (2004-2005), pour grand orchestre (10′)
Commande du Festival de Lucerne
A Pierre Boulez
Création mondiale : 9 septembre 2005 – Lucerne KKL – Lucerne Festival Academy Orchestra, dir. Pierre BOULEZ
Création française : 2 juin 2006 – Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio-France, dir. Hannu LINTU
© Edizioni Suvini Zerboni/SugarMusic S.p.A, Milano

M a d r i g a l (2004-2005), pour soprano et ensemble (11′)
Commande de la Fondation André Boucourechliev
A Françoise Kubler et Armand Angster
Création mondiale : 30 septembre 2005 – Strasbourg, Festival Musica – Ensemble Accroche-Note
© Edizioni Suvini Zerboni/SugarMusic S.p.A, Milano

V i r y a (2004), pour flûte, clarinette en sib (+ clarinette basse), percussions et piano (7′)
Commande de M. Francis Rueff
A Frédéric Kahn
Création mondiale : 19 mars 2004 – Espace 110 Illzach – Ensemble In Extremis
© Edizioni Suvini Zerboni/SugarMusic S.p.A, Milano

A u s (2004), pour alto, saxophone soprano, clarinette en sib (+ clarinette basse) et piano (8′)  
Commande de la Radio de Berlin-Brandeburg
A Philippe Hurel
Création mondiale : 24 janvier 2004 – Berlin, Ultraschall-Festival – Ensemble Intégrales
Enregistrement : CD “European Young generation” par l’Ensemble Intégrales aux éditions Zeitklang (ez-21019)
Pour l’acheter : www.amazon.fr
© Edizioni Suvini Zerboni/SugarMusic S.p.A, Milano

H a o s (2003), pour piano seul (10′)
Commande du Festival Rendez-vous Musique Nouvelle de Forbach
A Laurent Cabasso
Création mondiale : 9 novembre 2003 – Forbach, Festival RVMN – Raoul Jehl, piano
© Edizioni Suvini Zerboni/SugarMusic S.p.A, Milano

I ô a (2003) pour choeur de femmes à huit voix (3′)
A Catherine Bolzinger
Création mondiale : 23 mai 2003 – Strasbourg, Palais du Rhin – Ensemble Vocal Féminin du Conservatoire de Strasbourg, dir. Catherine BOLZINGER
© Edizioni Suvini Zerboni/SugarMusic S.p.A, Milano

Y e t (2002), pour vingt musiciens (10′)  
Commande de l’Ensemble Intercontemporain
A Pascal Dusapin
Création mondiale : 29 septembre 2002 – Strasbourg, Festival Musica – Ensemble Intercontemporain ; dir. Jonathan NOTT
© Edizioni Suvini Zerboni/SugarMusic S.p.A, Milano

E k t r a (2001), pour flûte seule (5′)
A Olivier Class
Création mondiale : 16 juin 2001 – Strasbourg, Cercle européen, Académie des Marches de l’Est – Olivier Class, flûte
© Edizioni Suvini Zerboni/SugarMusic S.p.A, Milano

D i k h a (2000-2001), pour clarinette/clarinette basse et dispositif électronique (9’30)  
Réalisée dans le cadre du cursus de composition et d’informatique musicale de l’IRCAM
A Pierre Dutrieu
Création mondiale : 15 juin 2002 – Paris, Festival Agora, Espace de Projection de l’IRCAM – Pierre Dutrieu, clarinette
© Edizioni Suvini Zerboni/SugarMusic S.p.A, Milano

T r e i s (2000), pour violon, violoncelle et piano (10′)
Mention d’honneur au Festival Gaudeamus 2001/1er Prix Earplay 2002 Donald Aird Memorial Composers Competition
A Rosalie Adolf, Anne-Cécile Litolf et Godefroy Vujicic
Création mondiale : 7 octobre 2000 – Strasbourg, Festival Musica – Rosalie Adolf (vn), Godefroy Vujicic (vc), Anne-Cécile Litolf (pno)
© Edizioni Suvini Zerboni/SugarMusic S.p.A, Milano

L a  C h u t e  D u  R o u g e (2000), pour clarinette, violoncelle, vibraphone et piano (11′)  
A Ivan Fedele
Création mondiale : 11 mai 2000 – Strasbourg, Oratoire du Temple-Neuf – Ensemble du Conservatoire de Strasbourg
© Edizioni Suvini Zerboni/SugarMusic S.p.A, Milano

S k i a ï (1998-1999), pour cinq instruments (8′)
A Pierre-Yves Meugé
Création mondiale : 11 mai 1999 – Strasbourg, Musée de l’Œuvre Notre-Dame – Ensemble du Conservatoire de Strasbourg
© Edizioni Suvini Zerboni/SugarMusic S.p.A, Milano

S t r o f a II (1998), voix de femme, violon et piano (5’30) (Retiré du catalogue)
Création mondiale : 11 mai 2000 – Strasbourg, Oratoire du Temple-Neuf – Ensemble du Conservatoire de Strasbourg
inédit © Christophe BERTRAND

S t r o f a IIb (1998-2000), pour voix de femme, flûte alto (également flûte en ut), et piano (5’30)
Création mondiale : 2 juillet 2000 – Wangen (67), Vieux Freihof – Aline Metzinger (voix), Olivier Class (fl), Christophe Bertrand (pno)
© Edizioni Suvini Zerboni/SugarMusic S.p.A, Milano

Photo credit:  Pascale Srebnicki (2008).




Think again, Helen Vendler, think differently!

Helen Vendler wrote a superb and indispensible commentary on Shakespeare’s Sonnets, deconstructing the poems’ complex and subtle verbal gymnastics and providing a guide to the unmatched mental ingenuity Shakespeare manifests.   As her exegesis clearly shows, Vendler, as well as Shakespeare, is a master of verbal intelligence.   However, she seems to believe that the only intelligence that is, is linguistic.  

In a recent article in Harvard Magazine, Vendler presents a case for primary school education to centre around reading and words, with just a nod to mathematics.    It is good that she included mathematics there somewhere, since I presume she would like her electricity network to keep humming with power, her sewers flushed, her phones connected, her air-travel crash-free, her food and drink and flowers freshly delivered, her weather forecasted, her borders defended, and her online transactions safely encrypted.    None of these, in our modern, technologically-centred world, would be sure to happen if our schools produced only literati.  

But 15 periods per day – 1 of mathematics and 14 for reading – and yet no time for children to draw or paint?  They can look at art and discuss it (periods #7 and #10) but not do it!  How revealing is THAT about Ms Vendler’s opinions of the relative importance of words and images!    And no time in those 15 periods for learning or playing music, apart from group singing?  The only singing allowed in her day is the “choral singing of traditional melodic song (folk songs, country songs, rounds)” ?  Why should traditional melodies be so privileged?   That is like saying that children should only read books written before 1900.   Surely, a person so concerned with words and reading would be delighted if children engaged in rap, that most verbal and linguistically-intellectually-challenging of musics?    This list of activities begins to look merely like an anti-contemporary-world tirade of the sort we have seen before.

Not only does her syllabus have an anti-modern bias, but there is also a bias against other forms of human thinking, such as drawing-as-thought, and music-as-thought.   The philosopher Stephen Toulmin noted the pro-text tendency our culture has evidenced these last four centuries.  While this tendency still dominates us all, we are at last seeing the rise of minority tendencies:  an increasing role for film and video and image in our culture generally; the use of GUIs in devices which interact with humans; the use of graphically-oriented software development tools (so that no longer do all programmers have to be left-brained text manipulators); an attention to design in product development;  and the rise – for the first time since Euclid’s geometry – of a western mathematical discipline where reasoning occurs over diagrams.  

We are just at the beginning at understanding, modeling, systematizing, and using visual thinking and reasoning over diagrams, or musical and sonic reasoning.  We’ve hardly started this effort for the other types of human intelligence we know about:  spatial, kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, naturalistic, and existential.   And all the non-human forms of intelligence await even recognition and discovery.   What a great shame if all this rich diversity of intelligent modes of thought were to be squeezed out by a narrow school syllabus favouring just one-and-a-bit types of thinking.  

References:

Helen Vendler [1999]:  The Art of Shakespeare’s Sonnets.  Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press.

Helen Vendler [2011]:  Reading is elemental.  Harvard Magazine, September-October 2011.




The Matherati: Index

The psychologist Howard Gardner identified nine distinct types of human intelligence. It is perhaps not surprising that people with great verbal and linguistic dexterity have long had a word to describe themselves, the Literati. Those of us with mathematical and logical reasoning capabilities I have therefore been calling the Matherati, defined here. I have tried to salute members of this group as I recall or encounter them.

This page lists the people I have currently written about or mentioned, in alpha order:

Alexander d’Arblay, John Aris, John Atkinson, John Bennett, Christophe Bertrand, Matthew Piers Watt Boulton, Joan Burchardt, Boris N. Delone, the Delone family, Nicolas Fatio de Duillier, Michael Dummett, Sean Eberhard, Edward FrenkelMartin Gardner, Kurt Godel, Charles Hamblin, Thomas Harriott, Martin Harvey, Fritz JohnErnest Kaye, Robert May, Robin Milner, Isaac Newton, Mervyn Pragnell, Malcolm Rennie, Dennis Ritchie, Ibn Sina, Adam Spencer, Bill Thurston, Alan Turing, Alexander Yessenin-Volpin.

And lists:

20th-Century Mathematicians.




Connections, south of my days

I have previously posted Judith Wright’s famous poem South of My Days, here.  For anyone growing up in rural eastern Australia, this poem with its stories of the great cattle droves of the late 19th and early 20th century resonates.

The SMH recently carried an obituary for John Atkinson (1940-2011), a mechanical engineering lecturer at Sydney University and member of the Matherati.  Atkinson’s mother, Gwen Wilkins, had been a university friend of Judith Wright (1915-2000) at Sydney University in the 1930s.  Atkinson’s father Tom managed a cattle station in Southern Queensland for Wright’s father, Phillip, and Judith apparently introduced Atkinson’s parents to each other.

This long-ago connection of farming families reminded me of the 50th anniversary commemoration of the Stinson aircrash in the remote and treacherous sub-tropical jungles of the Lamington Ranges National Park in Southern Queensland in February 1937, a commemoration I attended.  The crash was the occasion of a famous rescue by bushman, Bernard O’Reilly, trekking alone on a hunch, recounted on the O’Reilly Guest House site here.  My father, with me that day in 1987, was surprised to encounter a work colleague also present.  It turned out that the O’Reilly family had farmed in the Kanimbla Valley in the Blue Mountains in central NSW, on a property adjoining my father’s colleague’s family property, before moving up to the McPherson Ranges in 1911.  Despite the distance (about 600 miles) and the remoteness of both locations, the two families had kept in touch through the intervening 76 years, with each new generation becoming friends.

O’Reilly wrote a famous book about his pioneering bush experiences and the Stinson rescue.  Among those I met that day were members of the rescue party that O’Reilly gathered together in 1937.

POSTSCRIPT (2011-12-23):  I remembered that Judith Wright wrote a poem about James Westray, who initially survived the Stinson crash, a poem I have posted here.

 

References:

Bernard O’Reilly [1940]:  Green Mountains.  Brisbane, Australia.

The report and documents of the official Queensland Government Inquest into the Stinson crash are here.

A remembrance of John Atkinson by a bush-walking friend is here.  Apparently, Dr Atkinson drowned in the surf.




Australian improv comedy pre-history

My father saw Barry Humphries try out an act as an ordinary Moonee Ponds housewife in a Philip Street Theatre Review in Sydney in about 1955.   I saw undergraduate mathematician Adam Spencer winning theatre sports improv contests at The Harold Park Hotel in about 1988.   As well as being so witty that I would remember his name all this time, he also still had a full head of hair.




Let Newton Be!

Belately, I want to record a play seen at the headquarters of The Royal Society in London last month, Let Newton Be, written by Craig Baxter, but using only Isaac Newton’s own words.     The play was interesting although the energy of the play sagged at times, particularly in the first half.   The story only barely mentioned Newton’s interest in alchemy, and seemed to overlook his brutal, deadly campaigns against money forgers later in life (or did I nap through that scene?)

The play comprised three actors, two men and a woman, who played Newton at different ages – as a child, as a young-ish Cambridge academic, and as an old man.  As a work of drama, the conceit worked well, although it was best when one of the actors was playing another person interacting with Newton (eg, Halley, and later Leibniz, who spoke in an amusing cod-German accent).  Perhaps the real Newton was not sufficiently schizoid for three actors to play him, at least not when constrained to only use the man’s written words.    As I have remarked before, Newton’s personality was all of a piece:  it is only modern westerners who cannot imagine a religious motivation for activities such as scientific research, for example, or who find alchemy and calculus incoherent.

The performance was followed by a panel discussion by the Great and the Good – two historians and two scientists.  One of the scientists was the Astronomer Royal, Sir Martin Rees, who has subsequently won this year’s Templeton Prize for Science and Religion.  The discussion was interesting, so it is a pity it was not recorded for posterity.

A review of another play about a member of the matherati, Kurt Godel, is here.




The Matherati: Martin Harvey

Writing in Bertinoro, Italy, I have just learnt of the death earlier this year of J. Martin Harvey (1949-2011), a friend and former colleague, and one of Zimbabwe’s great mathematicians. Martin was the first black student to gain First Class Honours in Mathematics from the University of Rhodesia (as it then was, now the University of Zimbabwe), the first person to gain a doctorate in mathematics from that University, and the first black lecturer appointed to teach mathematics there. He later became an actuary, one of the few of any colour in Zimbabwe, but this was a career that lost value with the declining Zimbabwe dollar: actuarial science is about financial planning under uncertainty, and planning is pointless in an economy with hyper-inflation. He then became part of the great Zimbabwean diaspora, lecturing at the University of the Western Cape, in South Africa.

Martin was a true child of the sixties, with all the best qualities of that generation – open, generous, tolerant, curious, unpompous, democratic, sincere. He was a category theorist, and like most, a deep thinker. Martin was a superb jazz flautist, and on his travels would seek out jazz musicians to jam with. He wrote and recited poetry, and indeed could talk with knowledge on a thousand topics. I once spent a month traveling the country with him on a market resarch project we did together, and his conversation was endlessly fascinating. Despite our very different childhoods, I recall a long, enjoyable evening with him in a shebeen in rural Zimbabwe talking about the various American and Japanese TV series we had both seen growing up (which I mentioned here). Among many memories, I recall him once arguing that a university in a marxist state should have only two faculties: a Faculty for the Forces of Production, and a Faculty for the Relations of Production. There was great laughter as he insisted that the arts and humanities were essential to effective production, and so belonged in the former faculty; this argument was typical of his wit and erudition.

Our mutual friend, Heneri Dzinotyiweyi, another great Zimbabwean mathematician, has a tribute here. I send my condolences to his wife, Winnie Harvey, and family. Vale, Martin. It has been an honour to have known you.

Bibliography:

J. M. Harvey [1977]: T0-separation in topological categories. Quaestiones Mathematicae, 2 (1-3): 177 – 190. An earlier version apperared in: Proceedings of the Second Symposium on Categorical Topology, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, RSA, 1976.
J. M. Harvey [1982]: A note on topological hom-functors. Proceedings of the American Mathematical Society, 85 (4): 517-519. Available here.

J. M. Harvey [1983]: Categorical characterization of uniform hyperspaces. Mathematical Proceedings of the Cambridge Philosophical Society, 94: 229-233. Available here.

J. M. Harvey [1985]: Reflective subcategories. Illinois Journal of Mathematics, 29 (3): 365-369. Available here.

 




The Matherati: Alexander d’Arblay

 

The photo shows the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of All Saints, at the corner of Pratt and Camden Streets in Camden, London. Before becoming an Orthodox Chuch in 1948, the building was an Anglican Church, most recently All Saints Camden. The building was designed by William Inwood and his son Henry Inwood in 1822-24, who had together earlier designed St. Pancras New Church in Euston, London. Both churches borrow from ancient Greek architecture, so it is fitting that one is now filled with Greek icons and text, and used for services in (modern) Greek. All Saints has a low-set but very deep choir balcony, extending from the entrance almost one-third the length of the church; this gives the church a quite intimate feel, despite the height of the main chapel. The current cathedral also has three large, low-hanging white glass chandeliers over the main chapel, which enhances the intimacy. I was reminded of the intimacy of Lloyd Wright’s Unity Temple in Chicago, a building which is similarly deceptive from the outside about the compactness of the space within.

When built, All Saints was called Camden Town Chapel, and its founding pastor was the Rev’d Alexander Charles Louis d’Arblay (1794-1837), son of the author Fanny Burney (1752-1840) and Alexandre-Jean-Baptiste Piochard D’Arblay (1754-1818), emigre French aristocrat and soldier, and adjutant-general to Lafayette. The Reverend d’Arblay was a poet and chess-player, and had been 10th wrangler in the Mathematics Tripos at Cambridge in 1818. He was a friend of fellow-student (but non-wrangler) Charles Babbage and a member of Babbage’s Analytical Society (forerunner of the Cambridge Philosophical Society), and he may have introduced Babbage to recent French mathematics. d’Arblay had been partly educated in France, and was aware of French trends in analysis, which in its rigour and formality was very different to the applied focus of British mathematics. From his time as an undergraduate, Babbage ran a campaign against the troglodytic British mathematics establishment, who were then opposed to rigour, formality and theory, and he sought to introduce modern analysis into mathematics teaching at Cambridge. British pure mathematics, as better mathematicians than I have argued, lost a century of progress as a result of its focus on certain types of applications at the expense of rigour.

Because of his First-Class degree, after his graduation d’Arblay was appointed a Fellow of Christ College Cambridge, which paid him a generous stipend his entire life (presumably while he remained unmarried). He had a remarkable ability to quickly learn and recite from memory long poems, and was obsessed with chess. He once missed an arranged meeting with his father when the latter was returning to France because he was engrossed in a chess game with his uncle, the admiral James Burney. d’Arblay was apparently bilingual, and wrote equally easily in English and French, and translated poetry and literary works from each language to the other. Through his mother, he was friends with the royal family and moved in high society. Ordained Reverend d’Arblay, he served as minister of Camden Town Chapel from 1824-1837, and then briefly at Ely Chapel in High Holborn, London. He died of tuberculosis and was unmarried, although engaged to one Mary Anne Smith. Some of his poetry is on the subject of chess. As the son of Fanny Burney, d’Arblay was the grandson of musician, composer and musicologist Charles Burney FRS (1726-1814), and thus from a remarkable family that included musicians, dancers, novelists, painters, historians, and an admiral.

Alongside d’Arblay, the founding organist at Camden Town Chapel was Samuel Wesley (1766-1837).

An index to posts about the Matherati is here.

POSTSCRIPT 1 [2011-12-24]: I have now seen d’Arblay’s poem, “Caissa Rediviva”, published anonymously in 1836. This is a long poem about a chess game. If there were any doubts about d’Arblay’s membership of the Matherati, this publication would allay them: The frontispiece to the poem poses a non-standard chess problem, which only someone with a subtle and agile mathmind could imagine: Given a particular chess board-configuration, find the precise sequence of 59 moves by White, each of which forces a single move by Black, and which ends with Black check-mating White with a particular move.

POSTSCRIPT 2 [2012-02-18]: Apparently, the Reverend d’Arblay suffered severely from depression for most of his adult life. Peter Sabor, in a recent talk at a conference in depression in the 18th century argues that d’Arblay’s depression may have arisen from his combination of great (and unrealistic) ambition and great indolence. But, of course, his apparent indolence may have been the result, not the cause, of his depression.

POSTSCRIPT 3 [2012-02-18]: d’Arblay was not the last member of the Matherati to become engrossed in intellectual pursuits. The most recent Senior Wrangler at Cambridge, Sean Eberhard (Tripos 2011), is described by his fellow collegians as, “most likely to neglect children to do crossword”.

References:

An Amateur at Chess [Alexander C. L. d'Arblay] [1836]: Caissa Rediviva: Or the Muzio Gambit. London, UK: Sampson Low.

Peter Sabor [2008]: Frances Burney and Alexander d’Arblay: Creative and Uncreative Gloom. Invited Lecture at: Conference on Before Depression: 1600 – 1800.