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Is it known who actually wrote Bourbaki's Elements of the History of Mathematics?

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Dear Delio Mugnolo, I don't have an answer, but I would just remark that Bourbaki's "Elements of Hystory of Mathematics" recollects the historical sections disseminated in the volumes of the "Elements of Mathematics". By the way, Jean Dieudonné wrote historical works on his own, and directed the work of a group of mathematician to write "Abrégé d'histoire des mathématiques 1700-1900". – Giuseppe Jan 22 '13 at 11:21
I am a bit unconvinced about the merits of this question. What is the motivation? If there is no very clear motivation I find it a bit pointless and possibly even inappropriate to ask about individuals' respective contributions to a work that it is very explicitly a collective enterprise. (I do know there was a recent question along similar lines, but this was on something more narrow, and in addition I was also a bit, though a bit less, unconvinced about that other one). – user9072 Jan 22 '13 at 11:28
well, i would say it is not strange in literature critics to have this kind of doubts about unknown authors - even if they wanted themselves to share an identity. if you do not allow an interest like this and content yourself with available information, history (as an academical field) would die right away. that said, i do think it is interesting to know who in particular, among the bourbaki members, had a particular interest in history of maths. – Delio Mugnolo Jan 22 '13 at 13:22
I never said I do not allow an interest like this, I merely asked for your motivation. And, I insist that without motivation this is a bit of a pointless question. Say, do you plan asking this for each other of the books of Bourbaki? Each chapter? Would you consider doing so as reasonable? Your motivation seems almost invariant under changing the precise subject. – user9072 Jan 22 '13 at 14:19
no, my motivation is mostly historical curiosity. i would not say the same may be asked for all other bourbaki books: it is well known who of the bourbakists was more interested in set theory, topology, complex analysis etc. none of them seem to have been an expert in history of maths, to the best of my knowledge. whence the question. – Delio Mugnolo Jan 22 '13 at 20:37
up vote 5 down vote accepted

Different people wrote different parts. Weil indicates somewhere that he wrote the Note historique about infinitesimal calculus. A perusal of Archives de l'Association des Collaborateurs de Nicolas Bourbaki might provide further hints.

Other possible sources of information are articles and interviews by Henri Cartan, Jean Dieudonné, Armand Borel, and Laurent Schwartz about their involvement with Bourbaki.

Among the living, Pierre Cartier, Roger Godement and Jean-Pierre Serre should be able to provide you ample information. Bourbaki's biographer Liliane Beaulieu might be another source of information.

Addendum (2013/03/31) Bourbaki's editor Hermann has donated all his papers to the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. See their announcement ( and an article in Libération's science blog (

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Dear Chandan Singh Dalawat, last year Roger Godement answered a question here on MathOverflow, surely he could give invaluable information. – Giuseppe Jan 22 '13 at 11:36
Thanks for mentioning Roger Godement. Which question did he answer on MO ? I couldn't find him among the list of users. – Chandan Singh Dalawat Jan 22 '13 at 11:44
Here is:… – Giuseppe Jan 22 '13 at 11:46
Thank you very much for the link. I had completely missed this wonderful answer. – Chandan Singh Dalawat Jan 22 '13 at 11:51

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