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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

72 Answers 72

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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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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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    $\begingroup$ Yes, I mentioned that here on 9 November 2010. $\endgroup$ – Gerry Myerson Jun 19 '12 at 1:01
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    $\begingroup$ I thought I carefully checked that it had not been mentioned earlier... Sorry for my mistake! $\endgroup$ – Bruno Jun 19 '12 at 7:50
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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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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
  • $\begingroup$ 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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Levi Ben Gershon (1288-1344) (see also here) 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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  • $\begingroup$ An abbreviation is not a pseudonym. He wrote his works under his real name; RaLBa"G is how others refer to him, but did he ever use that? $\endgroup$ – Robert Israel May 27 '16 at 19:35
  • $\begingroup$ He may have written his works under the Latinization of his name, Gersonides. $\endgroup$ – Gerry Myerson May 29 '16 at 3:15
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In addition to K.M.S. Humak mentioned earlier (which encodes "Kollektiv Mathematische Statistik: Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin und Akademie der Wissenschaften der DDR"), Helga Bunke had a long-term career in literature under her maiden name Helga Königsdorf.

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Pytheas N. Fogg is a collective of several authors including Valérie Berthé, Sébastien Ferenczi, Christian Mauduit, Anne Siegel and others - Review of J. P. Allouche of

Pytheas Fogg, N. (ed.); Berthé, Valérie (ed.); Ferenczi, Sébastien (ed.); Mauduit, Christian (ed.); Siegel, A. (ed.), Substitutions in dynamics, arithmetics and combinatorics, Lecture Notes in Mathematics. 1794. Berlin: Springer. xv, 402 p. EUR 57.95/net; sFr. 96.50; £ 40.50; $ 76.80 (2002). ZBL1014.11015.: "This collective book, published under the pseudonym N. Pytheas Fogg, based on courses given by the authors in several universities and during several summer schools".

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Andersen, Kirsti; Meyer, Henrik, Georg Mohr’s three books and the Gegenübung auf Compendium Euclidis Curiosi, Centaurus 28, 139-144 (1985). ZBL0571.01014. discusses the identity of J.D.S., author of "Gegenübung auf Compendium Euclidis Curiosi (1673)", and are convinced that it is not (as assumed by Bierens de Haan) a pseudonym of Georg Mohr (hence, the real identity seems still open).

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Gohierre de Longchamps used the pseudonym Elgé for publications in Journal de mathématiques élémentaires and Journal de mathématiques spéciales of which he was editor, see

Lazzeri, G., Gastone Gohierre de Longchamps, Periodico di Mat. (3) 4, 53-59 (1906). ZBL37.0031.04.

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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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Endre Weiszfeld, a childhood friend of Erdős, changed his name to Andrew Vázsonyi to escape persecution as a Jew. But much later, he also used the alias Zepartzatt Gozinto, at least for this book review. The story goes that the name arose when he made a joke in a talk and George Dantzig misheard it.

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"Mathematician" might be a slight stretch, but math-related and of real-world significance: no one has yet figured out who Satoshi Nakamoto is.

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