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Many mathematicians know that Lewis Carroll was quite a good mathematician, who wrote about logic (paradoxes) and determinants. He found an expansion formula, which bears his real name (Charles Lutwidge) Dodgson. Needless to say, L. Carroll was his pseudonym, used in literature.

Another (alive) mathematician writes under his real name and under a pseudonym (John B. Goode). (That person, by the way, is Bruno Poizat: it's no secret, even MathSciNet knows it.)

What other mathematicians (say dead ones) had a pseudonym, either within their mathematical activity, or in a parallel career ?

Of course, don't count people who changed name at some moment of their life because of marriage, persecution, conversion, and so on.


Edit. The answers and comments suggest that there are at least four categories of pseudonyms, which don't exhaust all situations.

  • Professional mathematicians, who did something outside of mathematics under a pseudonym (F. Hausdorff - Paul Mongré, E. Temple Bell - John Taine),
  • People doing mathematics under a pseudonym, and something else under their real name (Sophie Germain - M. Le Blanc, W. S. Gosset - Student)),
  • Professional mathematicians writing mathematics under both their real name and a pseudonym (B. Poizat - John B. Goode),
  • Collaborative pseudonyms (Bourbaki, Blanche Descartes)
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Does Nicolas Bourbaki qualify? – Andrey Rekalo Nov 7 '10 at 18:00
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I think you will find some answers at mathoverflow.net/users . – darij grinberg Nov 7 '10 at 20:46
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@darij: Indeed! I never knew Bugs Bunny had such a fondness for algebra and geometry. – Thierry Zell Nov 8 '10 at 1:41
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Along the lines of Bourbaki, there's also Jet Nestruev. – bhwang Nov 8 '10 at 5:39
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Donald Knuth used the pseudonym Ursula N. Owens when submitting a paper to get more honest reviews. (As described by Wilf on page 3 of math.upenn.edu/~wilf/website/dek.pdf) – Moshe Schwartz Nov 8 '10 at 7:56

59 Answers 59

In addition to being the "G" of G. W. Peck (as pointed out by Richard Stanley earlier), Ron Graham also published "On properties of a well-known graph or What is your Ramsey number?" as Tom Odda, a member of the Department of Mathematics from Xanadu University.

Apparently the name was chosen because if said quickly it sounded like the Chinese expression 他妈的 pronounced "ta ma de", a not so polite phrase in Chinese!

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There's a very strange thing about the review of that paper in Math Reviews: it refers to itself. It says, "see also MR0557896 (81d:05055)," when in fact it is MR0557896 (81d:05055). How did that happen? – Gerry Myerson Nov 9 '10 at 3:21

D. P. Parent is the author of a book of Exercises in Number Theory. Its authors are D. Barsky, F. Bertrandias, G. Christol, A. Decomps, H. Delange, J.-M. Deshouillers, K. Gérardin, J. Lagrange, J.-L. Nicolas, M. Pathiaux, G. Rauzy and M. Waldschmidt. The initials of the pseudonym recall the names of Delange, Pisot and Poitou, the three organizers of a Number Theory Seminar in Paris, which runs since 1959.

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Hugo Steinhaus was also an author of aphorisms, which he published in the daily "Slowo Polskie" under a pseudonym Sestertius. Most were just goofy definitions of everyday terms. The following example seems to do OK in translation from Polish: "An opinion that all high-rank officers are stupid: a generalization". The book edition ("Slownik Racjonalny") appeared in 1980 (after his death) under his real name.

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It might be a stretch but Ben Franklin spent time on recreational mathematics http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magic_square, http://www.amazon.com/Benjamin-Franklins-Numbers-Mathematical-Odyssey/dp/0691129568/, and called himself a number of pseudonyms (Richard Saunders, Mrs. Silence Dogood) in his other writings.

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One may type "pseudonym" into an "Anywhere" box at MathSciNet and find 44 hits. Many of these are not relevant to the question at hand, but I'll post any that I find that haven't been posted here already. Here's one: Christian Tapp, Kardinalitat und Kardinale, MR 2006h:01012, the review by Volker Peckhaus says that in Chapter 5, "We learn about [Georg] Cantor's pseudonyms such as Vincent Regnas, Jorge Vincente Monteador de Montemor, and others...."

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Continuing to troll through MathSciNet, I find Yu I Krivonosov, Higher mathematics and higher authority, MR 2002k:01034, reviewed by R L Cooke (and I highly recommend the review). It seems that A I Lapin, a convicted anti-Soviet agitator, confined to an asylum in Leningrad, was allowed to publish under a pseudonym in 1952.

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Yet another find on MathSciNet. Anita Feferman, Politics, Logic, and Love, MR 93j:01010, reviewed by D J Struik. This is a biography of Jean van Heijenoort. "In 1948 he broke openly with his past in a paper of [sic] the Partisan Review, where he denied the scientific nature of Marxism. He wrote it under a pseudonym (Jean Vannier) - after all he was an alien and it was the McCarthy period."

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The mathematician Dan Barbilian was also a poet, having the pen name Ion Barbu. Some of his works are described here and here.

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Albert Gifi is a group pseudonym for a groupf of authors writing "Nonlinear Multivariate Analysis" From this Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jan_de_Leeuw

"De Leeuw is the originator[4] of the Albert Gifi team that wrote Nonlinear Multivariate Analysis.[5] In Multidimensional Scaling, Volume 1,[6] Cox and Cox write that "Albert Gifi is the nom de plume of members, past and present, of the Department of Data Theory at the University of Leiden who devised a system of nonlinear multivariate analysis that extends various techniques, such as principal components analysis and canonical correlation analysis." "

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Boto von Querenburg wrote a book on general topology, which is one of the standard source in German. According to Wikipedia the name actually stands for the authors Gunter Bengel, Hans-Dieter Coldewey, Klaus Funcke, Edelgard Gramberg, Norbert Peczynski, Andreas Stieglitz, Elmar Vogt and Heiner Zieschang. The name Boto was chosen as an abbreviation of "Bochum topologists" and the University of Bochum is in a part of the town called Querenburg.

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T. G. L. Zetters, has proven in 1979 that either player can draw in the 8-in-a-row game. This is a variant of the well known 5-in-a-row where players take turn placing their mark to a square on an infinite square grid, and a player wins if they have a consecutive sequence of 8 or more of his own marks in a row, column, or diagonal. According to the book Csákány Béla, Diszkrét Matematikai Játékok (Polygon, Szeged, 1998), this is a pseudonim of a group of Dutch mathematicians. According to the manuscript András Csernenszky, The Chooser-Picker 7-in-a-row-game (submitted in 2010, arXiv:1004.2460v1), it is a pseudonym for A. Brouwer.

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A. Brouwer actually lists this article as one of his on his webpage (win.tue.nl/~aeb/publications.html). If you speak out the name, it just says "tilers" in Dutch. – Jan Jitse Venselaar Mar 31 '11 at 13:32

Here's one more from MathSciNet. N Ya Vilenkin, Formulas on cardboard, MR 93a:01039, reviewed by B Rosenfeld. Nikolay S Koshlyakov was arrested in 1942, was denounced as an "enemy of the nation," and was condemned to ten years in the camps. The book written by him in the camp, Investigations of a class of transcendental functions determined by the generalized equation of Riemann, was published ... in 1949 ... under the pseudonym N S Sergeev (Koshlyakov's patronymic name was Sergeevich).

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Heinrich Seidel's review of M Lothaire, Combinatorics on Words, MR 84g:05002, says "The name of the author is a pseudonym chosen by the mathematicians who together with D Perrin serve as coauthors." There are about a dozen coauthors.

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Another find on MathSciNet. Dominique Descotes, Genese des corollaires 1 et 2 de la lettre à Carcavy de Blaise Pascal, MR 99g:01016, review by Craig Fraser: In December of 1658 Blaise Pascal began to publish under the pseudonym A Dettonville the mathematical work Lettres de A Dettonville.... According to C B Boyer, "the name Amos Dettonville was an anagram of Louis de Montalte, the pseudonym used [by Pascal] in the Lettres provinciales."

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As far as I know, Horst Herrlich has some publications as Y.T. Rhineghost. http://www.informatik.uni-bremen.de/~herrlich/public/index.html I do not know the story behind this pseudonym.

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D'Alembert's name was in a sense a "pseudonym." D'Alembert was abandoned as an infant. However, d'Alembert was neither the name of his birth parents nor his adoptive parents. He made it up when he was a student.

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Yes, you mentioned this on 31 March 2011 in a comment on a post of 7 November 2010 by Andreas Blass, earlier in this discussion. – Gerry Myerson Jun 19 '12 at 1:06

Although some think of Pythagoras as one person, it is now thought that his name is used for geometric and number theoretical discoveries made by anonymous members of his sect.

Thus, we can think of "Pythagoras" as the pseudonym of a collective of Greek intellectuals from about 500 BCE.

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3  
sounds like what happens nowadays for discoveries in a typical medical lab... – Delio Mugnolo Nov 9 '13 at 14:56

Jacob Goodman published the as-yet-unsolved Pancake Problem under the pseudonym, Harry Dweighter ("harried waiter"). See, e.g., http://www.math.uiuc.edu/~west/openp/pancake.html

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Elena Ventzel is not a very famous mathematician, although her textbook on Probability for engineers was (still is?) by far the most famous and widely used one in Russia.

She had a successful separate career as a fiction writer under a pen-name I. Grekova (derived from "igrek").

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Does Plato count? (No pun entirely intended.)

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I don't follow. – Qiaochu Yuan Nov 7 '10 at 21:06
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@Michael, his real name being ...? – David Roberts Nov 7 '10 at 23:26
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Aristocles according to Wikipedia's article about him. I don't know if I knew that, but I've been familiar with the nickname meaning "broad-shouldered" or something like that for a long time. – Michael Hardy Nov 8 '10 at 1:57
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Who considers Plato a mathematician, and on what grounds? – Gerry Myerson Nov 8 '10 at 10:58
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@Gerry: One person who considers Plato a mathematician put the assertion into the first paragraph of the Wikipedia article about him. It's in more than one place in the article and maybe more than one person put it there. You can look at the edit history, and maybe even find out the actual identities of those who did that. My uncertainty about the "grounds" you asked about was why I phrased my answer as a question. – Michael Hardy Nov 8 '10 at 13:40

Niccolò Fontana best known as Tartaglia.

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Tartaglia is more a (pejorative) nickname than a pseudonym I think. If I were him, I wouldn't like people on the street calling out "Hey, there's Niccolo the Stammerer!" – J. M. Nov 8 '10 at 11:34
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Is it worse than the French translation "Hé, voilà Henri Lebesgue" ? – Georges Elencwajg Nov 8 '10 at 21:54

According to Daniel Lazard, in his review of Berenstein and Struppa, Recent improvements in the complexity of the effective nullstellensatz, MR 92m:13024, N Fitchas was a pseudonym for a working group led by J Heintz that got results on the membership problem and the representation problem.

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Noaï Fitchas was a pseudonym for the group of Joos Heintz and his students Leandro Caniglia, Guillermo Cortiñas, Silvia Danón, Teresa Krick, and Pablo Solernó.

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Yes, I mentioned that here on 9 November 2010. – Gerry Myerson Jun 19 '12 at 1:01
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I thought I carefully checked that it had not been mentioned earlier... Sorry for my mistake! – Bruno Jun 19 '12 at 7:50

I guess, though I am not sure, the case of Albert Wormstein falls in your third category:

Professional mathematicians writing mathematics under both their real name and a pseudonym.

This paper: "Polyominoes of order 3 do not exist" (Journal of Combinatorial Theory, Series A, Volume 61, Issue 1, September 1992, Pages 130–136) has been written by I. N. Stewart and A. Wormstein.

Here is the story behind the paper as told by Ian Stewart himself.

The link has the correct story. Albert Wormstein first appeared in one of my articles for Pour La Science / Scientific American, which was used as a chapter in the cited book. While I was writing that article it suddenly seemed clear that there ought to be a way to prove the conjecture about order 3 polyominoes. It felt as though Albert was tapping me on the shoulder and saying 'come on, we can do this.' It quickly turned out he was right. So I decided to give him credit as a co-author. The journal either spotted the joke and went along with it, or they assumed Albert was a PhD student. At any rate, they published it with him as co-author.

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MathSciNet list AW as an author, though with only this paper, and does not identify him with INS. – Denis Serre Apr 27 at 11:53

I realize now that Oscar Zariski was only a variation of his original name Ascher Zaritsky. He changed his name when publishing his dissertation, perhaps to hide his jewish origin in the facist Italy.

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A very common type of pseudonym, especially in the Renaissance, was a Latinisation. Examples include:

  • René Descartes becomes Renatus Cartesius;
  • Mikołaj Kopernik becomes Nicolaus Copernicus;
  • Geert de Kremer becomes Gerardus Mercator;
  • Willebrord Snel van Royen ('Snell') becomes Willebrord Snellius.

(Mathematics was not as well-established as a single profession at the time, and most of the people listed were active in many fields of science. A true Renaissance scientist is a polymath.)

Remark. For some reason, this practice seems to have been especially popular in the Low Countries. This is somewhat remarkable, given that (following Simon Stevin, another Renaissance scientist) the Dutch language dropped Latin and Greek loanwords like subtract, multiply, and even mathematics itself, in favour of the Dutch words aftrekken, vermenigvuldigen, and wiskunde. There are very few European languages that have their own word for mathematics.

Remark. One may argue that a Latinisation does not constitute a pseudonym, but if we translate pseudonym literally as false name, then any name deviating from a person's actual [legal] name can be considered a pseudonym.

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Volume 1 of Statistical Methods of Model Building, edited by Helga Bunke and Olaf Bunke, was first published under the pseudonym of K M S Humak. See the review by J Kleffe, MR 88d:62121. See also MR 86b:62002.

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The review by E Reich of I J Good and K Caj Doog, A paradox concerning rate of information, MR 19, 1245h, informs us that "The name of the second author is understood to be a pseudonym."

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Levi Ben Gershon (1288-1344) is commonly known to us as the RaLBa"G. Again, this is a nickname rather than a pseudonym- RLBG = "Rabbi Levi Ben Gershon", much in the same way as Shah Rikh Khan is known as SRK.

He wrote three mathematics books including Maaseh Hoshev, which "... is notable for its early use of proof by mathematical induction, and pioneering work in combinatorics. "

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