Thursday, November 08, 2012

mildly interesting: a look back.

sometimes i forget how history unfolds .. even within the recent history of american mathematics:
"And it's kind of interesting to see what happened to engineering. So like when I got to MIT, it was 1950s, this was an engineering school. There was a very good math department, physics department, but they were service departments. They were teaching the engineers tricks they could use. The electrical engineering department, you learned how to build a circuit. Well if you went to MIT in the 1960s, or now, it's completely different. No matter what engineering field you're in, you learn the same basic science and mathematics. And then maybe you learn a little bit about how to apply it. But that's a very different approach. And it resulted maybe from the fact that really for the first time in history, the basic sciences, like physics, had something really to tell engineers."
~ from "noam chomsky: on where a.i. went wrong" @theatlantic

wow: a lot changes in 50 years. if i had to name one of the top mathematics department in the world now, MIT would be up there ..

.. then again, maybe i'm making too much of this personal anecdote. after all, how many top maths departments were in the united states before the 60's, anyway?

1 comment:

Leonid said...

I'd guess there were about 10 Top-10 departments and about 50 Top-50 departments. But from university's point of view they were service department. Krantz remarks that in 1940-50 even people like Weil taught 3+3.