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[4:15pm] Mathematics Colloquium
 Description:
 Mathematics Colloquium
Speaker: Prof. Michael J. Barany from
Dartmouth College
Date & Time: 7th February, 45pm
Venue: Ramanujan Hall
Title: A Synthesis and a Simplification: Difficulty and differentiation in
the intercontinental history of the theory of distributions.
Abstract: Between 1945 and 1960, French mathematician Laurent Schwartz’s
theory of distributions became one of the first of a new kind of
mathematical theory: one shared and studied almost from the start across
multiple continents. Today, distributions have mostly settled into a
comfortable niche in the basic graduate (or in some cases advanced
undergraduate) mathematics curriculum, as a theory many researchers use
routinely as a basic tool while many others safely ignore it. But in those
early years the theory’s leading expositors came to many different answers
about how difficult the theory was, who should study it, and what that
meant for the theory’s place in modern mathematics. My talk will explain
the early history of Schwartz’s theory with special attention to the
question of how difficult the theory was understood to be in different
contexts across five continents. The fact that there were so many different
answers to the question of distributions’ difficulty, I argue, can explain
how the theory was able to spread so far and so quickly. This, in turn,
calls attention to the changing nature of mathematical theories themselves
in the midtwentieth century.


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