An Incomplete Truth: The Role of Crisis and Politics in Early Twenieth Century Mathematics
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As a History and Computer Science double major, Goucher’s library services have served as a valuable asset for research and topic exploration. The purpose of my submission for the Julia Rogers research prize was to combine my diverse interests through the exploration of the development of mathematical foundations at the turn of the 20th century and its effect on the theory of computation. This process was accomplished by dividing the research into five distinct stages: preliminary reading, primary source analysis, topic outlining, drafting, and peer/faculty review. From the collected works of L.E.J Brouwer and Constance Reid’s biography of David Hilbert to William Dunham’s Journey Through Genius and more, the Athenaeum’s large collection of primary and secondary literature greatly supplemented the preliminary reading phase of my research. In addition to taking advantage of the Athenaeum’s resources, I traveled to the Library of Congress where I located a valuable compilation of primary sources annotated by the Dutch mathematician Dirk Van Dalen. I also reached out to both Professor Robert Lewand and Professor Justin Brody in the Math and Computer Science department to guide my research. After gaining a solid appreciation of the theory, sources and history necessary for embarking on this project, I began the process of outlining my paper. The greatest challenge was providing an analysis of technical topics to readers with no formal mathematical background. I found that the use of parables and story-telling to explain complex concepts helped to overcome this challenge. During the drafting of my paper, the invaluable expertise and advice of both Professor Baker and Professor Lewand helped me maintain focus. I am greatly indebted to them and my peers for pushing me to turn “Incomplete Truth: The Role of Crisis and Politics in Early Twentieth Century Mathematics” in to one of the strongest works of my undergraduate career.