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Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien

History of mathematics in modern Japan

 January 2020 - February 2024

While the independent mathematical tradition in Japan of the Edo period (the so-called wasan) has already received a certain amount of attention in historical research, my dissertation was the first monographic treatise on mathematics in modern Japan. Building off of this previous research on the perspectives of institutionalization and the circulation of knowledge, which were applied to mathematics as science in Japan during the Meiji and Taishō periods, this research project expands on these issues thematically and temporally (up to the end of the Second World War).

It is beneficial to look for discontinuities as well as continuities between premodern and modern mathematics in Japan. While the Ministry of Education primarily promoted exchange with European and American mathematicians, the emergence of a national community of specialists and the establishment of Japanese as a scientific language can be seen as a balancing process. However, a strict separation of these aspects is not possible because mathematicians trained abroad at the state’s expense were expected to also provide their knowledge as bureaucrats after returning to Japan. In this light, a broader study that contextualizes mathematics in the higher education system and works out connections to other sciences such as physics is promising.

As journals and textbooks played a central role in linguistic and cultural translation processes, they are of particular interest. From the diverse publication landscape of the Meiji period to the efficient infrastructure for communication within the discipline at the end of the 1930s, there are numerous objects in which perspectives from the sociology of knowledge provide new insights. Since Chinese and Korean students also studied mathematics at Japanese universities and the networks were partially preserved, this project will also contribute to the history of mathematics in East Asia while.

Recent Publications

Kümmerle, Harald (February 21, 2024). "#readme.txt: Die Institutionalisierung der Mathematik als Wissenschaft im Japan der Meiji- und Taishō-Zeit". [gab_log] Geisteswissenschaften als Beruf. LINK
Kümmerle, Harald (2023). "多様性の不足こそが可能にする方法論的貢献 (Methodological contributions that are made possible especially through a lack of diversity)". In: 第26回国際科学史技術史医学史大会報告集 (Collection of reports on the 26th International Congress for the History of Science and Technology) (pp. 44-45). 日本学術会議史学委員会 (Commission for History in the Science Council of Japan).
Kümmerle, Harald (2022). "近代日本の数学の発展と当時の大学の制度: 教授職就任につながる「知識生産」[The development of mathematics in modern Japan and the university system at that time: The "knowledge production" connected to assuming a professorship]". 日本語と日本語教育 [Japanese language and Japanese language education], 50.
Kümmerle, Harald (2022). Die Institutionalisierung der Mathematik als Wissenschaft im Japan der Meiji- und Taishō-Zeit (1868-1926). Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina - Nationale Akademie der Wissenschaften (Acta Historica Leopoldina). LINK
Kümmerle, Harald (2021). "博士論文「明治・大正時代の日本における数学の科学として の制度化」:その成果と新たな問題提起 [Doctoral thesis on the Institutionalization of mathematics as a science in Meiji- and Taishō-era Japan: Results and proposition of new problems]". RIMS Kôkyûroku Bessatsu, B85 (pp. 143-153).