Soviet academics impacted U.S. math study

Feb. 8, 2012 at 5:45 PM
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SOUTH BEND, Ind., Feb. 8 (UPI) -- The 1992 collapse of the Soviet Union brought many Soviet mathematicians to U.S. institutions and changed how mathematics are taught and studied, a study shows.

Russian scholars' differing areas of specialization was a prime factor in the change in U.S. mathematics instruction, researchers at the University of Notre Dame said.

"In the period between the establishment and fall of communism, Soviet mathematics developed in an insular fashion and along very different specializations than American mathematics," Notre Dame economist Kirk Doran said in a university release Wednesday.

"As a result, some mathematicians experienced few potential insights from the Soviets, while other fields experienced a flood of new mathematicians, theorems and ideas."

During the Communist period there was little collaboration and were few exchanges between Soviet and Western mathematicians, Doran said.

"Just as speakers of one language, when separated geographically for many generations, develop separate and different dialects through natural changes over time, so Western and Eastern mathematicians, separated by Stalinist and Cold War political institutions, developed under different influences to the point of achieving very different specializations across the fields of mathematics," he said.

The study by Doran and a colleague from Harvard University will appear in the Quarterly Journal of Economics and examines "the impact of the influx of renowned Soviet mathematicians into the global mathematics community," Doran said.

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