I would like to know if there are sources on the history of the classification of mathematical subjects. Gérard Lang

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ I like this question, but I think it could benefit from more context. E.g. are there particular instances of classification, or changes of classification over time, which you're interested in? $\endgroup$ Feb 14, 2018 at 15:21
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Two early examples I know of in which the whole of mathematics was essentially classified are: (1) Jahrbuch über die Fortschritte der Mathematik (late 1860s); (2) Royal Society of London Catalogue of Scientific Papers 1800-1900. Volume I, Pure Mathematics (1908) (Bull. AMS review by G. A. Miller). $\endgroup$ Feb 14, 2018 at 15:26
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you. These are two very interesting sources, that are completing the article of Craig Fraser. The review of the second source in the AMS is not too optimistic about the quality of the catalogue of the Royal Society. $\endgroup$ Feb 14, 2018 at 21:35
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Trying to answer to Noah Schweber, I would have been specially interested to have a study on this question on the long term, beginning in the Antiquity and going on until now, specially concerning the possible changes of status regarding Logic and Geometry. $\endgroup$ Feb 14, 2018 at 21:44
  • $\begingroup$ "The review of the second source in the AMS is not too optimistic about the quality of the catalogue $\ldots$" That review was by G. A. Miller who was/is well known for highly critical reviews and short papers criticizing various (often minor, but not always) issues about someone's paper(s) and/or book(s). I've read quite a few such reviews and critical commentaries by him (probably over 50) in the past 20 some years, and for what it's worth, this particular review is extremely high praise for him. $\endgroup$ Feb 14, 2018 at 21:49

1 Answer 1


Here is one such historical overview:

Mathematics in library subject classification systems, by Craig Fraser (2016). (Springer link)

Insofar as library science is concerned, modern classification of mathematical subjects occurred within the larger framework of library classification, a vast project receiving sustained attention in the period from 1870 to 1920. The work of the library cataloguers was carried out against the background of a broad nineteenth-century interest in the classification of knowledge. We explore different views during this period concerning the position of mathematics in the overall scheme of knowledge, the scope of mathematics, and the internal organization of the different parts of mathematics. We examine how mathematical books were classified, from the most general level down to the level of particular subject areas in analysis. The focus is on the Library of Congress classification system in its various iterations from 1905 to the present.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for this source. I could read the most interesting two first pages of the eighteen pages of the article by Craig Fraser, specially on Dewey and Cutter. I will wait until I am convinced that no other more inclusive source is available to credit you. $\endgroup$ Feb 14, 2018 at 21:27

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.