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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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    $\begingroup$ Does Nicolas Bourbaki qualify? $\endgroup$ – Andrey Rekalo Nov 7 '10 at 18:00
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    $\begingroup$ I think you will find some answers at mathoverflow.net/users . $\endgroup$ – darij grinberg Nov 7 '10 at 20:46
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    $\begingroup$ @darij: Indeed! I never knew Bugs Bunny had such a fondness for algebra and geometry. $\endgroup$ – Thierry Zell Nov 8 '10 at 1:41
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    $\begingroup$ Along the lines of Bourbaki, there's also Jet Nestruev. $\endgroup$ – bhwang Nov 8 '10 at 5:39
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    $\begingroup$ 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) $\endgroup$ – Moshe Schwartz Nov 8 '10 at 7:56

73 Answers 73

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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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From Zinbiel, G.W., Encyclopedia of types of algebras 2010, Bai, Chengming (ed.) et al., Operads and universal algebra. Proceedings of the summer school and international conference, Tianjin, China, July 5--9, 2010. Hackensack, NJ: World Scientific (ISBN 978-981-4365-11-6/hbk; 978-981-4458-33-7/ebook). Nankai Series in Pure, Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics 9, 217-297 (2012). ZBL1351.17001.:

"Note that J.-L. Loday published this article under the pseudonym Guillaume William Zinbiel (Zinbiel is Leibniz written backwards)."

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  • $\begingroup$ !!! This is wonderful. How did you get hold of it? $\endgroup$ – Venkataramana Sep 15 '18 at 4:57
  • $\begingroup$ This other question made me look at Young’s linked bibliography. $\endgroup$ – Francois Ziegler Sep 15 '18 at 5:02
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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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O. P. Lossers has published since 1965, mostly problem solutions in various journals. He has Erdös number 2.

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    $\begingroup$ I dunno about this one. There are many problem solvers out there that submit stuff pseudonymously. For instance, several years ago, it was commonplace to see the pen name ALFRED E. NEUMAN in the problem department of the Pi Mu Epsilon Journal. $\endgroup$ – José Hdz. Stgo. Nov 8 '10 at 1:06
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    $\begingroup$ Some more information on O.P.Lossers (apparantly, he was even asked to referee!) can be found on Wim Nuij's website (win.tue.nl/~wsinwaan) His name just spells "solvers" in Dutch btw. $\endgroup$ – Jan Jitse Venselaar Mar 31 '11 at 13:38
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    $\begingroup$ See also cameroncounts.wordpress.com/2013/07/24/… where Peter Cameron also explains (and confirms) the pseudonym. $\endgroup$ – Andrés E. Caicedo Feb 26 '14 at 17:16
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Gergonne has published 43 additional papers anonymously or under a pseudonym in his Annales des Mathématiques pure et appliquée (1810–1831). In his copy of the journal given to the Sorbonne library, he had added his name manually to these contributions (see Henry, C., Supplément à la bibliographie de Gergonne., Bonc. Bull. 14, 211-218 (1881). JFM 13.0019.01.).

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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 (Wayback Machine) and here (Wayback Machine).

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It might be a stretch but Ben Franklin spent time on recreational mathematics https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magic_square, https://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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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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    $\begingroup$ 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. $\endgroup$ – Gerry Myerson Jun 19 '12 at 1:06
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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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For reasons that it amuses him not to explain, Harold Simmons published the book First Steps in Modal Logic under the pseudonym Sally Popkorn.

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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 fascist Italy.

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    $\begingroup$ "Of course, don't count people who changed name at some moment of their life because of marriage, persecution, conversion, and so on." Not a pseudonym. $\endgroup$ – Robert Israel May 27 '16 at 19:39
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According to the review of Reinhard Siegmund-Schultze, Sørensen, Henrik Kragh, Louis Olivier: a mathematician only known through his publications in Crelle’s journal during the 1820s, Centaurus 48, No. 3, 201-231 (2006). ZBL1115.01012., "ventures several hypotheses, including that ‘Olivier’ was a pseudonym. From the information revealed in this article the reviewer is inclined not even to rule out that Olivier and Crelle were the same person."

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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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    $\begingroup$ MathSciNet list AW as an author, though with only this paper, and does not identify him with INS. $\endgroup$ – Denis Serre Apr 27 '16 at 11:53
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Albert Gifi is a group pseudonym for a groupf of authors writing "Nonlinear Multivariate Analysis" From this Wikipedia page: https://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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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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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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    $\begingroup$ According to S. S. Demidov, Vopr. Istor. Estestvozn. Tekh. 2001, No. 2, 122--126 (2001; Zbl 0996.01013), the pseudonym used was A. I. Ivanov. $\endgroup$ – Olaf Teschke Jan 1 '18 at 19:49
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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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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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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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  • $\begingroup$ Do you have any reference for that? This seems a bit authoritarive statement. $\endgroup$ – Denis Serre Jan 4 '13 at 19:04
  • $\begingroup$ What about "Pythagoras and the Early Pythagoreans" by Leonid Zhmu, page 257? You can see that page in google books. The fact that all his sect's discoveries were attributed to Pythagoras is common knowledge, although I could not get another explicit reference in the 10 minutes I spent finding the above. $\endgroup$ – Rodrigo A. Pérez Jan 5 '13 at 5:57
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    $\begingroup$ sounds like what happens nowadays for discoveries in a typical medical lab... $\endgroup$ – Delio Mugnolo Nov 9 '13 at 14:56
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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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    $\begingroup$ I think the notion of actual/legal name may post-date some of these people... $\endgroup$ – Zhen Lin May 27 '16 at 21:39
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    $\begingroup$ "Any name deviating from a person's actual [legal] name can be considered a pseudonym" is setting the bar rather low. The French tend to spell my last name as "Israël", while Americans tend to render my first name as "Bob". I don't think those would be pseudonyms. $\endgroup$ – Robert Israel May 27 '16 at 21:44
  • $\begingroup$ @RobertIsrael: I can see your point, although I would have found it slightly more convincing if the person her/himself modifies the name, rather than other people misspelling or misidentifying it. This of course also happens a lot: there are a lot of Bobs out there whose legal name is Robert. $\endgroup$ – R. van Dobben de Bruyn May 27 '16 at 22:22
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    $\begingroup$ I think that calling these pseudonyms is anachronistic -- it is more likely that this was the standard kind of name one adopted for purposes of scholarly discussion or reputation-building $\endgroup$ – Yemon Choi May 28 '16 at 21:40
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P. A. Batnik was a pseudonym used by Paul T. Bateman and Bruce Reznick for contributions to the American Math Monthly's problems column. See, e.g., http://celebratio.org/Bateman_PT/article/332/

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"Madame Veuve Prime/Madame F. Prime" was most likely a pseudonym (see Eneström, G., Questions 41 48. Remark on the question 43, Bibl. Math. (2) VII. 31-32, 64, 96, 120 (1893); (2) VIII. 32, 63-64, 96, 120 (1894) (1893,1894). ZBL25.0011.05.), but so far no one seems to have identified the author.

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  • $\begingroup$ Most of Madame Veuve F.Prime's papers seem to have been published in Journal de Mathématiques Elémentaires between 1892 and 1895. While the name does sound like a pseudonym, I doubt it was a famous mathematician, more probably a high school teacher or a student. In a 1892 article she is mentionning Brussels as her hometown (but this could be a decoy), see archive.org/stream/s4journaldemathm01pari#page/162/mode/2up/… In any case, it does indeed appear to be difficult to identify the author. $\endgroup$ – Thomas Sauvaget Jan 1 '18 at 21:21
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Peter Cameron tells the story of the collaborative pseudonym WE Opencomb in his (Peter’s) blog

https://cameroncounts.wordpress.com/2009/10/28/collaboration-in-mathematics/

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

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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 (Wayback Machine) http://www.csupomona.edu/~hlord/geist/ (Wayback Machine)

I do not know the story behind this pseudonym.

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  • $\begingroup$ Y.T. Rhineghost has a great homepage: csupomona.edu/~hlord/geist $\endgroup$ – Peter Arndt Mar 16 '14 at 11:01
  • $\begingroup$ According to that homepage Rhineghost was a group five people. Rhineghost wrote 58 reviews for math.sci.net - some of them about articles of his own members, see numbers 11 and 22 on the list of reviews $\endgroup$ – Peter Arndt Mar 16 '14 at 11:05
  • $\begingroup$ The above link seems to be dead. Here is link to Wayback Machine and specifically to the last working capture. $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Sep 29 '16 at 1:10
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Niccolò Fontana best known as Tartaglia.

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  • $\begingroup$ But was that actually a pseudonym? $\endgroup$ – Gerry Myerson Nov 8 '10 at 10:48
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    $\begingroup$ 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!" $\endgroup$ – J. M. isn't a mathematician Nov 8 '10 at 11:34
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    $\begingroup$ Is it worse than the French translation "Hé, voilà Henri Lebesgue" ? $\endgroup$ – Georges Elencwajg Nov 8 '10 at 21:54
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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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    $\begingroup$ Yes, this was detailed in the preface to the 2nd edition of their first book (Combinatorics on Words). It stands for Lothaire aka Lothar I, King of Lotharingia. The similarities to the Bourbaki name choice are interesting... $\endgroup$ – darij grinberg Nov 9 '10 at 9:30
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    $\begingroup$ It turns out that there is a "Séminaire Lotharingien de Combinatoire" (Lotharingic seminar of combinatorics), to which some of my colleagues of the University of Lyon are associated. This must not be a coincidence. The denomination comes from the fact that Lotharingie was the kingdom between France and Germany (approximately from the North See to the Mediteranean See) after Verdun's treaty in 843. It did not last, because France and Germany fought to dominate it. This fight lasted more than a thousand years, till 1945. $\endgroup$ – Denis Serre Nov 17 '10 at 21:39
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    $\begingroup$ Clickable link: MR 84g:05002. $\endgroup$ – LSpice Jan 4 at 15:27

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