
06460744
j
2015d.00030
Kragh, Helge
Mathematics and physics: the idea of a preestablished harmony.
Sci. Educ. (Dordrecht) 24, No. 56, 515527 (2015).
2015
Springer Netherlands, Dordrecht
EN
A30
M50
history of mathematics
history of physics
mathematics and physics
doi:10.1007/s1119101497248
Summary: For more than a century the notion of a preestablished harmony between the mathematical and physical sciences has played an important role not only in the rhetoric of mathematicians and theoretical physicists, but also as a doctrine guiding much of their research. Strongly mathematized branches of physics, such as the vortex theory of atoms popular in Victorian Britain, were not unknown in the nineteenth century, but it was only in the environment of findesi\`ecle Germany that the idea of a preestablished harmony really took off and became part of the mathematicians' ideology. Important historical figures were in this respect David Hilbert, Hermann Minkowski and, somewhat later, Albert Einstein. Roughly similar ideas can be found also among British theorists, among whom Arthur Eddington, Arthur Milne, and Paul Dirac are singled out. Although largely limited to the period 18701940, the paper also considers Max Tegmark's recent hypothesis of the universe (or multiverse) being a onetoone reflection of mathematical structures.