Retired Mathematician Develops a Family Tree of the Scholars in His Field
Published on The Chronicle of Higher Education, by Sarah Carr, August 18, 1999.
When Harry B. Coonce tried to trace his mathematical roots – to discover the identity of his academic advisor’s advisor – he hit a wall. Mr. Coonce, a retired mathematics professor, found that no one at his graduate program had the information. His frustration led him to create a resource to help mathematicians track their intellectual lineage. The result is the Genealogy Project for Mathematicians, a Web site that lists the advisors of thousands of mathematicians. Mr. Coonce has been assisted in the effort by other math professors, as well as students, who maintain the World-Wide Web site.
He hopes that the data base, which already contains more than 27,000 names, will eventually identify everyone who has earned a research degree in mathematics during the 20th century. Already, many professors and students of math have learned the identities of their so-called siblings (other students who studied under their graduate advisors), aunts and uncles (siblings of their advisors), or cousins (students who studied under their aunts and uncles) …
… For Mr. Coonce, the goal is to compile information about all the mathematicians on the planet. A notice on the home page states that the project is “permanently under construction.” “We’ll take data in any form,” he says. “We’ll take it through snail mail, on typed copy, or even handwritten copy.” Anyone with names to add to the site can send an e-mail message to Mr. Coonce. mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org … (full text).