Most of the world’s mathematicians fall into just 24 scientific ‘families’, one of which dates back to the fifteenth century. The insight comes from an analysis of the Mathematics Genealogy Project (MGP), which aims to connect all mathematicians, living and dead, into family trees on the basis of teacher–pupil lineages, in particular who an individual’s doctoral adviser was.
The analysis also uses the MGP — the most complete such project — to trace trends in the history of science, including the emergence of the United States as a scientific power in the 1920s and when different mathematical subfields rose to dominance1.
Maths whizz solves a master’s riddle
“You can see how mathematics has evolved in time,” says Floriana Gargiulo, who studies networks dynamics at the University of Namur, Belgium and who led the analysis.