Vossius Center for History of Humanities and Sciences

Vossius Seminar

19June2017 15:00 - 17:00


Lukas Verburgt and Anna Pytlowany will present at the next Vossius seminar. Lukas Verburgt will give the lecture "Between Modernism and Counter-Modernism in Russian Mathematics, 1920-1930" and Anna Pytlowany's lecture is entitled "The last polymath? Adriaan Reland between science and scholarship".


  • 15.00-15.45
    Lukas Verburgt (University of Amsterdam, Vossius Fellow)
    Between Modernism and Counter-Modernism in Russian Mathematics, 1920-1930
  • 16.00-16.45
    Anna Pytlowany (University of Amsterdam)
    The last polymath? Adriaan Reland between science and scholarship


Abstract Lukas Verburgt

As part of its study of the role of mathematics in the emergence of modernist culture, Herbert Mehrtens' Moderne - Sprache - Mathematik (1990) presented the well-known foundational debate in mathematics of the 1920s in terms of a clash between two camps: a modernist camp and a counter-modernist camp. The difference between the two was largely a question of opposing views on the self-understanding of mathematics: where mathematical modernists (e.g. David Hilbert) held that mathematics is an autonomous body of ideas without outward reference, the counter-modernists maintained that there is some basis in which mathematics is rooted, like intuition (e.g. L.E.J. Brouwer). The present talk explores the distinction between modernism and counter-modernism in the ideologically-laden context of 1920s-1930s Soviet mathematics. After providing an account of the views of the famous mathematicians Andrej Kolmogorov and Aleksandr Khinchin on the foundations of mathematics, and especially probability theory, it discusses their search for a middle ground between Hilbert and Brouwer with reference to the wider aim to establish a 'politically correct' (Marxist) mathematics free from 'Western influence'.

Abstract Anna Pytlowany

The name of Adriaan Reland (1676-1718), the professor and rector of the Utrecht University, is usually associated with his major works on Hebrew Antiquities, Islam, Oriental languages and poetry. Although various sources attest his central role in the international knowledge exchange network, little is known of his [private] life; due to his premature death at the age of 41, only a few manuscripts in the collection of Utrecht University Library and a few scattered letters remain. The recently rediscovered veilingcatalogus of Adriaan’s only son Johannes Hubertus sheds new light on Reland’s heritage. The catalog not only offers a comprehensive list of Adriaan’s Oriental manuscripts, but also describes Reland's impressive collection of scientific instruments and rarities. My presentation will bring together highlights of Reland’s published works on Islam, sacred geography, cartography and Oriental languages with the scientific interests running in the background as they can be deduced form the bundelbeschrijving of his late son, thus creating a fuller picture of a man who could be considered one of the last polymaths of Dutch Radical Enlightenment. 

Venue: BG1, room 0.16

Published by  Vossius Center