12 January 2009

Sociology of mathematicians?

Has anybody seriously looked at mathematicians from an anthropological or sociological perspective? I was talking to some sociologists last night, and apparently various people coming from the disciplines that study people have looked at biologists in this way; this got me wondering.

3 comments:

Karsten W. said...

there is a german book called "Innenwelt der Mathematik" written by Bettina Heintz on this subject.
http://books.google.de/books?id=Tjzlm0B9fUgC

sam shah said...

Mechanizing Proof, by Donald MacKenzie is close to what you're talking about.

It's actually an amazing book; it's on the "sociology of proof."

He's written quite a bit on topics you might find interesting.I think his more recent stuff is on the sociology of financial markets.

What I would like to read is an anthropological account of mathematicians. I've read anthropological accounts of physicists, weapons laboratory scientists, and biologists, but to read a true anthropological analysis of a group of mathematicians (a department, a field, a network of collaborators) would be fascinating!

Michael Lugo said...

Karsten,

thanks for the pointer. My German is good enough that I can tell from the abstract I'd like to read this if it were in English -- but unfortunately I'm not sure I'd want to read it in German.

Sam,

The MacKenzie book isn't exactly what I was talking about, but it seems interesting nonetheless. I was using "sociology" in the way that you're using "anthropology", and the book you say you would like to read is the book I'd like to read too.