Contents and Arrangement Expanded View

Collection Overview

Creator:
Princeton University. Department of Mathematics.
Collector:
Princeton University. Library. Special Collections
Title:
Department of Mathematics Oral History Project records
Repository:
Princeton University Archives
Permanent URL:
http://arks.princeton.edu/ark:/88435/sq87bt63m
Dates:
1984-1985
Size:
2 boxes and 2 items
Storage Note:
Mudd Manuscript Library (mudd): Box 1-2
Language:
English

Abstract

Princeton University's Department of Mathematics, founded in 1904 under the chairmanship of Henry Burchard Fine, saw the development of a unique mathematical community in the 1930s that was unlike any other in America before that time and perhaps afterwards, and that had important consequences for American mathematics. The collection consists of written transcripts of 42 interviews with surviving faculty and students of the mathematics community in Princeton in the 1930s, as well as recordings of the interviews, microfilm of interview transcripts, background information on the project, and an archived website that was created in 1999 to provide online access to the interview transcripts and related information.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Description:

The collection consists of written transcripts of 42 interviews with surviving faculty and students of the mathematics community in Princeton in the 1930s, as well as recordings of the interviews, microfilm of interview transcripts, background information on the project, and an archived website that was created in 1999 to provide online access to the interview transcripts and related information. Most of the interview discussions focus on the institutional and social context of the development of an eminent mathematical research and graduate education center, and on the personalities and biographies of the individuals involved. Information about technical accomplishments within mathematics are only peripherally considered. Common topics include reasons for coming to Princeton, assessments of the educational and research programs, and the effects of the Depression and the European political situation on academic life. These interviews concern primarily the mathematics community in Princeton in the 1930s.

Collection Creator Biography:

Princeton University. Department of Mathematics.

Princeton University's Department of Mathematics, founded in 1904 under the chairmanship of Henry Burchard Fine, saw the flowering of a unique mathematical community in the 1930s sparked by the construction of a luxurious new building Fine Hall (now Jones Hall) designed to facilitate a real community of mathematicians engaged in research and closely linked with mathematical physicists in the attached Palmer physics laboratory. This community was unlike any other in America before that time and perhaps afterwards, and had important consequences for American mathematics. With the planning and founding of the Institute for Advanced Study at the beginning of the decade, which shared Fine Hall with the university mathematics department during the period 1933 to 1939, a very exciting environment developed which many students and faculty were loath to leave.

Background on the Oral History Project: The 1930s saw the flowering of a unique mathematical community at Princeton University with the construction of a luxurious new building Fine Hall (now Jones Hall) dedicated to the mathematician and Dean Harry Fine and designed to facilitate a real community of mathematicians engaged in research and closely linked with mathematical physicists in the attached Palmer physics laboratory to which it was connected and shared a joint math-physics library. This community was unlike any other in America before that time and perhaps afterwards, and had important consequences for American mathematics. With the planning and founding of the Institute for Advanced Study at the beginning of the decade, originally having only a mathematics department, which then shared Fine Hall with the university mathematics department as a single institute during the period 1933 to 1939, starting with three of the university's leading mathematicians joined by Einstein and Gödel and attracting many visitors, a very exciting environment developed which many students and faculty were loath to leave. Half century later in 1984, one of the original participants Albert Tucker, himself a former mathematics department chair at Princeton, was motivated by Princetonian historian of science Charles Gillispie to capture some of the personal reminiscences of the remaining survivors of the period on tape himself with the help of William Aspray, which were then transcribed and organized into a body of written transcripts by then graduate student Rik Nebeker.

Collection History

Acquisition:

The University Archives received the analog portion of this collection (i.e. the paper records, microfilm and audiocassettes) in January 1986 . The website "The Princeton Mathematics Community in the 1930s" was archived beginning in 2007 .

Archival Appraisal Information:

No information on appraisal is available.

Processing Information:

This collection was updated by Lynn Durgin in 2015, with processing assistance from Carlos Sotelo, Class of 2017. At this time, content from a website titled "The Princeton Mathematics Community in the 1930s: An Oral-History Project" (created in 1999-2000 by Robert T. Jantzen '74, Professor of Mathematical Sciences Villanova University) was migrated to the finding aid, and transcripts were digitized and linked to the finding aid.

Access & Use

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research use with the exception of the interview of William Flexner, which is closed until 2020.

Conditions for Reproduction and Use:

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. For quotations that are fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. The Trustees of Princeton University hold copyright to all materials generated by Princeton University employees in the course of their work. If copyright is held by Princeton University, researchers will not need to obtain permission, complete any forms, or receive a letter to move forward with non-commercial use of materials from the Mudd Library. For materials where the copyright is not held by the University, researchers are responsible for determining who may hold the copyright and obtaining approval from them. If you have a question about who owns the copyright for an item, you may request clarification by contacting us through the Ask Us! form.

Other Finding Aids:

A website titled "The Princeton Mathematics Community in the 1930s: An Oral-History Project" that was created to provide online access to the transcripts has been preserved by the Internet Archive and is available at https://web.archive.org/web/20131024065717/http://www.princeton.edu/~mudd/finding_aids/mathoral/pm02.htm.

An index to names of individuals that are mentioned in the transcripts is available here: Index of Names.

Credit this material:

Department of Mathematics Oral History Project records; Princeton University Archives, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
http://arks.princeton.edu/ark:/88435/sq87bt63m
Location:
Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library
Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library
65 Olden Street
Princeton, NJ 08540, USA
(609) 258-6345