Monthly Archives: July 2018

Applications invited for doctoral studentship at the Sorbonne and Oxford

As part of an innovative collaboration between Oxford and the Sorbonne, here at EMLO we’re delighted to announce that applications for a three-year fully funded fellowship are being accepted currently from students wishing to pursue doctoral studies in the history of science, in mathematical sciences, in digital humanities, or in computer science. Details of the fellowship have been provided in both English and in French, and for further details please contact Alexandre Guilbaud at the Sorbonne (his email address may be found below). Should you choose to apply, good luck!

Call for applications:

The successful candidate’s PhD thesis will involve the scholarly study of correspondence networks from the perspective of both the history of sciences and the digital humanities. In particular, the student should consider how to structure a corpus made up of networks of interconnected correspondence data; the new research questions for the history of science that arise from such a corpus; the methodologies that can be put in place to answer these questions; and the extent to which the development of suitable digital analysis and research tools might contribute to the exploration of this type of corpus.

The doctoral fellowship is part of a scientific collaboration between the Faculty of Science and Engineering of Sorbonne University and the Faculty of History of the University of Oxford. The candidate will work in the Digital Humanities team at the Institut des sciences du calcul et des données (ISCD) of Sorbonne University (Paris, France) and will carry out a period of research at the University of Oxford (UK) within the framework of the Cultures of Knowledge research project/Early Modern Letters Online [EMLO]. An association either with Oxford’s Centre for the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology or with the Mathematical Institute is possible during the stay.

The doctoral fellow will benefit from a three-year funding by the Faculty of Science and Engineering of Sorbonne University. The candidate must have a strong background in digital humanities, history of sciences, mathematics, or computer sciences. Competences in at least two of these fields will be particularly appreciated.

To apply, please send your c.v. and a description of your research project to: You may also e-mail Alexandre at this address for further information regarding the fellowship.

La thèse proposée porte sur l’étude intellectuelle des réseaux de correspondances du double point de vue de l’histoire des sciences et des humanités numériques. Il s’agira en particulier de se demander comment structurer un corpus constitué de réseaux de données de correspondances interconnectées, quelles questions nouvelles un tel corpus permet de se poser en histoire des sciences, quelles méthodologies mettre en place pour y répondre, et dans quelle mesure le développement d’outils numériques d’analyse et de recherche adaptés peut permettre de contribuer à l’exploration de ce type de corpus.

Cette thèse fait l’objet d’une collaboration scientifique entre la Faculté des sciences et ingénierie de Sorbonne Université et l’équipe EMLO de l’Université d’Oxford. Le candidat travaillera dans l’équipe « Humanités numériques » de l’Institut des sciences du calcul et des données (ISCD) de Sorbonne Université (Paris, France) et effectuera un séjour de recherche à l’Université d’Oxford (UK) dans le cadre du projet de recherche Cultures of Knowledge/Early Modern Letters Online [EMLO]. Une collaboration avec le Center for the History of Science, Medicine and Technology ou avec le Mathematical Institute d’Oxford sera possible durant ce séjour.

La thèse est financée pour trois ans par la Faculté des sciences et ingénierie de Sorbonne Université. Le candidat devra disposer d’une solide formation en humanités numériques, en histoire des sciences, en mathématiques ou en informatique. Une double compétence sera particulièrement appréciée.

Pour candidater, envoyez votre cv et le descriptif de votre projet de recherche à l’adresse Vous pouvez également écrire à cette adresse pour tout complément d’information sur la thèse.

The Dutch Church in London

For those who have been waiting for the follow-up to last month’s post regarding work in EMLO on the correspondence from the archive of the Dutch Church in London, I’m delighted to announce that the update has been completed successfully.

A total of 1,511 letters from volume 3, part 1, of the meritorious edition published by John Henry Hessels is now in place in the union catalogue and metadata for this archive may be consulted.[1. J. H. Hessels, ed., Epistulae et Tractatus cum Reformationis tum Ecclesiae Londino-Batavae Historiam Illustrantes: Ecclesiae Londino-Batavae Archivum. Tomus Tertii, pars prima, 1523–1631 (Cambridge, 1897).] Former EMLO Digital Fellow Catherine Wright began work with this third volume, although the lion’s share of the work was carried out by her successor Karen Hollewand, an Oxford student who worked with EMLO whilst bringing her doctoral thesis on Hadriaan Beverland to a successful completion. As Karen has moved subsequently to the Netherlands to embark upon her post-doctoral career, we are looking for a student with a good working knowledge of Dutch to pick up where she left off and to begin work on volume three, part two (which contains letters from 23 June/3 July 1631 onwards). Should you be interested, please drop me a line.


Bird’s-eye view of Austin Friars, c. 1550, from the Copperplate Map of London. (source of image: Wikimedia Commons)

John Collins, Paris, and a meeting of mathematicians

The English mathematician John Collins (1625–1683) did not travel to France during his lifetime. However, his correspondence catalogue in EMLO was one of a cluster showcased at a Summer School entitled Histoire des sciences mathématiques et approches numériques : matérialité des textes, réseaux, classifications that took place last week in Paris at the Jussieu campus of the Sorbonne Université. Organized by Catherine Goldstein (CNRS, IMJ-PRG), Jean-Gabriel Ganascia (UPMC, LIP6), Alexandre Guilbaud (UPMC, IMJ-PRG), Irène Passeron (CNRS, IMJ-PRG), and Richard Walter (CNRS, ITEM), the Summer School brought together from around the world mathematical historians and students to discuss and explore the opportunities offered today by a variety of digital approaches and tools. In the course of five intense days, the impact of these approaches on research methodologies and practices was assessed and considered, and questions were raised about both their advantages and their limitations.

With a plenary to deliver and a series of workshops to run in the course of the week, Philip Beeley, Charlotte Marique, and I ‘packed’ a variety of sample letters from the correspondences of early modern practitioners of mathematics, all of whom either have catalogues in EMLO or for whom we are in the process of preparing an epistolary inventory. Along with letters by John Collins, we took (in alphabetical order to avoid any excuse for dispute!) examples from the correspondences of René DescartesLeonhard Euler, Pierre Fermat (or Pierre de Fermat — the form of his name itself became a topic of discussion during the week), Joachim Jungius, Pietro Mengoli, Isaac Newton, Blaise Pascal, and John Wallis. Fractious, querulous travelling companions these early modern individuals would no doubt have been, and it proved a sustaining game to imagine who might be saying what as we made our way across the channel and back, through delays, rail strikes, football mania, and sweltering temperatures.

At the Summer School, we were treated to wide-ranging talks and workshop sessions on key aspects of mathematical history, digital approaches, and future possibilities. In addition to the detailed courses and discussions led by the organizers on materiality, networks, and classification, we attended a variety of inspirational lectures, including Milad Doueihi on ‘Computation and the Humanities: Past and Present’, and Charles van den Heuvel on ‘Paper Bulwarks and Digital Fortresses. Mixed Methods for analyzing the Duytsche Mathematique’. Workshops provided the students with an introduction to XML/TEI; to transcription tools; to the truly wonderful database, Manuscrits, Usages des Supports d’Ecriture [MUSE], conceived and constructed by Claire Bussaret and Serges Linkès to allow detailed material description (for example, of paper types, watermarks, and seals) to be recorded; and of course to our own EMLO and its array of metadata collation tools.

It was a privilege to receive an invitation to address the participants at this Summer School and to have been offered the opportunity to discuss the possibilities of future collaboration with esteemed colleagues in the history of mathematics. We will write here in due course of a number of the ideas and schemes considered. For the present, however, as we unpack teaching materials that include copies of the letters of our early modern travelling companions, we continue to play our own travelling game of ‘Fantasy Early Modern Comments’ (a fine alternative to Fantasy Football, I might add!) by imagining how EMLO’s mathematicians would have responded to this French excursion — travelling attire, wigs, heat, and all. While we have no doubt that Mr Collins would be pleased to see the inventory of his correspondence swell last week to 264 letter records as an installment of the correspondence in the care of the Library at the University of St Andrews was added, we suspect other members of our Oxford-London travelling party might not be so well disposed or compliant. If you feel to join our summer game, complaints (ascribed to early modern mathematician) by email, please.