Frontières disciplinaires

by jemma margaret

There are certain occupations, like journalism or psychology, where one is specifically instructed not to become too attached to ones subjects.

Then there are other occupations, like microbiology and waste management, where professional boundaries are of little concern or speculation.

And then there is history, which falls somewhere in the middle.

I know you know I spend nearly all of my time reading the words of dead people. And though the subject is that pinnacle of objectivity–mathematics–the personalities nevertheless begin to seep in.

So while I don’t think of “my guys” as friends (yet), if I were to see one of them in the street I might invite him over for a cup of coffee and a slice of cake. They all seem pretty heartily in need of some cheering up. Especially as the first empire crashed and the Bourbon restoration (not nearly as nice as a Bourbon restaurant) picked up. Most of these mathematicians were also engineers for which Napoleonic expansion signified the boon years (I am grossly generalizing). Fortunately, mathematics was a fairly politically neutral discipline, but that didn’t mean everyone escaped unscathed. As time travel hasn’t quite reached acceptable standards yet, my primary interactions are of the reading and commenting sort. Late at night I find myself scolding long-winded authors who never quite get to the point or chastising too brief authors who think they’re so clever. Since the early nineteenth century initiated an explosion in academic journals, the rules for publications weren’t quite codified. There are footnoted footnotes and author introductions that warn “these are some hasty notes I wrote down in moments of leisure or insomnia.”

Exceptional self-advertisement, that.