Fall of Communism changed mathematics in US: New study

February 7, 2012

The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1992 brought an influx of Soviet mathematicians to U.S. institutions, and those scholars' differing areas of specialization have changed the way math is studied and taught in this country, according to new research by University of Notre Dame Economist Kirk Doran and a colleague from Harvard.

Titled "The Collapse of the Soviet Union and the Productivity of American ," the study will appear in an upcoming edition of the . "In this paper, we examine the impact of the influx of renowned Soviet mathematicians into the global community," says Doran.

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

Between the rise and fall of communism in the Soviet Union (1922-92), there was little collaboration and were few exchanges between Soviet and Western mathematicians. In fact, any communication with American mathematicians was read by authorities and special permission was needed to publish outside the .

"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," according to Doran.

Results of the study suggest that the sudden shift in specialized mathematics areas not only was related to a decline in the productivity of American mathematicians whose areas of specialty most overlapped with that of the Soviets, but it also reduced the likelihood of a competing American mathematician producing a top research paper.

Similarly, marginal American mathematicians became much more likely to transfer to lower ranked institutions and to significantly reduce their research and scholarship. There also is evidence in the study that the students of Soviet émigrés had higher lifetime productivity than students from the same institution whose advisors were non-Soviet émigrés.

Explore further: Top Russian mathematician Vladimir Arnold dies

Related Stories

Top Russian mathematician Vladimir Arnold dies

June 3, 2010

Russian Vladimir Arnold, one of the most important mathematicians of the 20th century, died Thursday in France just a few days short of his 73rd birthday, Russian news agencies reported.

Math institute gets largest NSF grant ever

July 20, 2005

The Institute for Mathematics and its Applications in Minnesota has received the largest math research grant ever made by the National Science Foundation.

Embracing complexity

July 30, 2010

Mathematicians from more than a dozen countries will gather at Case Western Reserve University next week to discuss the theoretical world of high dimensions.

Electric fish could spark healthcare innovation

June 19, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Mathematicians in Manchester are hoping electric fish can give them clues to solving a fiendishly complex mathematical problem - which could in turn lead to better treatment for patients with lung problems.

Recommended for you

80-million-year-old dinosaur collagen confirmed

January 23, 2017

Utilizing the most rigorous testing methods to date, researchers from North Carolina State University have isolated additional collagen peptides from an 80-million-year-old Brachylophosaurus. The work lends further support ...

Archaeologists uncover new clues to Maya collapse

January 23, 2017

Using the largest set of radiocarbon dates ever obtained from a single Maya site, archaeologists have developed a high-precision chronology that sheds new light on patterns leading up to the two major collapses of the ancient ...

New ancient otter species among largest ever found

January 23, 2017

Dr. Denise Su, curator and head of paleobotany and paleoecology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History was co-author on new research that described a species of otter new to science and that is among the largest otter ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (1) Feb 15, 2012
Ok but overall wasn't this better for scholarship and hence the advance of mathematics?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.