Category Archives: Autobiographical

Whilst I was away


As you may have noticed I have, after a comparatively long break, begun blogging again. When I stopped, I wrote a post saying that my inability to finish my review of David Wootton’s The Invention of Science was my reason for doing so and whilst this was true it doesn’t actually explain why the break has become so extended. Because over the years I have built up a collection of intelligent, loyal, benevolent and sympathetic readers I think that they have earned an explanation for my absence.

Two years ago on the fifth anniversary of the Renaissance Mathematicus I wrote a post explaining that I have suffered mental health problems nearly all of my life to a large extent, but not exclusively, caused by a combination of AD(non-H)D and dysgraphia and that writing this blog started as attempt to cure a forty year long writer’s block. One of the side effects of this double whammy of so-called learning difficulties is that I have always had massive problems with any form of bureaucratic bullshit that involves filling in forms. Please don’t make the mistake of saying, “oh nobody likes filling in forms” that is like telling somebody with clinical depression that everybody gets sad from time to time. I really have major psychological problems with all types of official forms. The content is in itself not really a problem; it is actually sitting down and confronting the offending object that is often nigh on impossible. The result is that I have always done such things at or mostly (well) past the final deadline and there have been periods when piles of official letters have accumulated unopened, often for months at a time, and often with disastrous results.

In September the German employment service forced me to take early retirement, I would have been due to retire in May next year so not that early. Due to my more than somewhat erratic work record, not unrelated to my mental health problems, and the fact that I have been officially unfit for work for almost the last twenty years, mental health problems combined with physical infirmities, my earned old age pension might just stretch to buying you a beer if we go to a very cheap bar. All of this meant that I had to apply for a German state social security pension (Grundsicherung im Alter).

Now this application consists of a very long complicated bureaucratic form to which one also has to collect a lot of official documents. Having completed this and sent it off, a couple of weeks later one gets another set of forms and another list of required documents. Having completed this a couple of weeks later you get… You get the picture? Unfortunately for me whilst I was going through the bureaucratic equivalent of Dante’s Inferno I also had to apply for a new British Passport, my old one being due to expire in the middle of October, as well as doing my tax returns for 2015, only one week past the final deadline. To make my life perfect I was also attempting to get a new extraordinary treatment for my back problems granted by my health insurance, whose bureaucratic hurdles equal those of the state social security pension application. The result of this bureaucratic tsunami over the last weeks has seen me scraping along and sometimes crossing the boundary to a major clinical depression, which sucked out all the will and energy I might have had for blogging or anything else for that matter. In the middle of this I actually held a public lecture on Babbage’s & Boole’s contributions to the history of computing, which I prepared literally the night before and held on autopilot. It went surprising well.

The current state of play is that I have a new passport, my tax affairs have been dealt with for another year and my state social security pension has been granted. My application for back treatment has been rejected, which is par for course and was expected and I now have to appeal the decision, more bureaucratic bullshit. I seem to have managed to avoid a full-blown depression and whilst I am feeling fairly battered, things are starting to look decidedly better. One positive aspect of the whole affair is that ten years ago such an episode in my life would almost certainly have had me back in a psychiatric hospital chewing the curtains, so I seem to be making progress, whatever that might be.

Of course for the readers of my blog the million dollar question is, have I finished my review of David Wootton’s The Invention of Science to which the answer in no but I am working on it. I think and I hope that you can expect regular history of science blog posts again here at the Renaissance Mathematicus and I look forward, as ever, to your comments.


Filed under Autobiographical

A public service announcement

For several months I have been writing a review essay of David Wootton’s fascinating and challenging book The Invention of Science, or better said not writing, as I have stalled, hit a roadblock, lost the thread or whatever. This being the case I have been doing what apparently writers are supposed to do in such situations writing other things. Now this is all very well but all that has happened is that I have found it increasingly more difficult to return to my review essay and complete it, so I have decided this has got to stop. Today I recommenced writing my review essay and have decided that I won’t write or post anything else until I do finish it, which might take some time. How long I can’t say at the moment. Until then nothing new will appear here at The Renaissance Mathematicus, I hope the break won’t be too long. When however blogging does resume here, normal service and frequency will be resumed, as I have several new posts already in the pipeline.



Filed under Autobiographical




Seven is the largest single digit prime number and a Mersenne prime. It is the number of planets in ancient Greek astronomy and the number of days in the astrological week, named after those planets. Isaac Newton decided to give the rainbow seven colours to match the seven notes of the major scale. Albrecht Dürer included a construction of a seven-sided polygon, the heptagon, in his maths book, which was criticised by Kepler as being only an approximation. Rome was built on seven hills. There are seven deadly sins, of which I have committed all seven more than once in my life, and seven heavenly virtues, of which I possess none. Two of my favourite films are Akira Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai and John Sturges’ glorious Hollywood rendition of it, The Magnificent Seven. Snow White had seven dwarfs and there were seven brides for those seven brothers. David Fincher’s neo-noir psychological thriller was simply called Seven. Seven is a number that turns up in a multitude of historical, mythical, literary, musical, artistic, mathematical and scientific contexts and today is the seventh birthday of the Renaissance Mathematicus.

I came comparatively late to computers. There are no Ataris, Sinclairs or C64s collecting dust in my cellar and I didn’t spend my youth painfully learning to programme in Fortran, BASIC or Pascal. I also came comparatively late to the Internet. I was not one of those who cobbled together a dial up modem and spent a fortune on telephone fees to gain online contact to a fellow enthusiast on the other side of the world. However when I did take the plunge the world of blogging was still very young and when I first discovered them a blog that was seven years old definitely belonged to the pioneer founder generation and was venerated as a Methuselah amongst its peers. Given the short lived and oft fickle nature of blogs, over the years seven continued to remain a sort of bench mark for a successful, mature, established blog. This being the case I regard today as the day that The Renaissance Mathematicus has become part of the cyberspace establishment.

When I started this blog I never imagined, even in my wildest dreams, that I would be sitting here typing a post to mark or celebrate my seventh anniversary. Over the last seven years the content and the aims of this blog have remained constant but the style of the blog posts has developed (degenerated!) and matured (gone stale!). I very rarely look at blog statistics, as doing so makes me too aware of the fact that people are reading the rubbish that I write and I start to worry about pleasing/insulting them and that impedes my ability to write freely. I do however know that, for a moderately hard-core history of science blog, a surprisingly large number of people read my regular outpourings. A thought that both frightens and humbles me. I would like to mark this milestone by issuing some thanks.

Thanks to all the people who, for whatever reason, read what I present here on a regular basis. Thanks to those highly knowledgeable and critical souls, who brave my wrath and comment on my posts, particularly on the more provocative or contentious ones. Thanks to all those who tweet or retweet links to my posts on Twitter or share them on Facebook. And a very special thanks to all the members of the Internet history of science community for letting me, a bungling amateur, be part of your world. I hope that at least some of you will stick around for the next seven years.


Filed under Autobiographical

The Renaissance Mathematicus “Live & Uming”

Those of you with nothing better to do can listen to a podcast of the Renaissance Mathematicus (that’s me folks!) searching for words, desperately trying to remember names, uming & ahing, thinking on his feet (I was actually sitting down the whole time) and generally stumbling his way through an eighty minute spontaneous, unrehearsed, live interview with Scott Gosnell of Bottle Rocket Science on such scintillated topics, as why the Pope got his knickers in a twist over Galileo or that notorious seventeenth century religious fanatic Isaac Newton. In fact the same boring load of old codswallop that you can read at you leisure here on this blog. As I say if you have nothing more exciting to do, such as watching paint dry or listening to the grass grow, then go listen.

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Filed under Autobiographical, History of Astronomy, History of science, Myths of Science, Renaissance Science

The Internet and the history of science community

Yesterday evening I had a very pleasant evening meal in Nürnberg with Karl Galle. Now somebody reading this statement, who doesn’t know Karl, might wonder what this has to do with the title of this post. Things might become a little bit clearer if I explain that Karl is, like myself, a historian of science. Now this post is not actually about Karl but rather more how I came to be eating with him yesterday evening on the Market Square of the picturesque Renaissance city of Nürnberg. Before I give a direct answer to this implied question I first want to go back in time to those dim and distant days when the Internet didn’t exist.

When I first became seriously interested in the history of science in the 1970s, I was living in Cardiff, the capital of Wales, with no real contact to other historians of science other than through the books on the subject that I was eagerly consuming at the time and I never truly imagined that I could get to meet and converse with a real historian of science in the flesh. Occasionally I would meet up with somebody who shared my interest on some level and would then enthusiastically engage them on the subject, often whilst getting stoned or drunk or both.

In 1980 I moved to Germany more by accident than design. It was never planned, thought through or aimed for; it just happened. In 1982 I returned to university in Erlangen having dropped out of university in Cardiff in 1971. This time round I studied mathematics and philosophy with an emphasis on the history and philosophy of science. In the middle of the 1980s because the maths department were not interested in history I changed over to philosophy, English philology and history. For most of the 80s and into the 90s I also worked as an, albeit badly paid, researcher into the history of mathematical or formal logic. I was for a decade an integrated part of a history of science community. Professors, lecturers, students, doctoral students and postdocs lots of local possibility for informative exchanges. However to go beyond the local was not so simple.

In this age of cheap instant communications, I think we forget how new this all is. In the 1980s there was no Internet. Telephone calls were expensive even a long distant call within your own country would cost you an arm or a leg, so to speak, so they were outside of the possibilities of a poverty stricken student and not encouraged by employers etc. If you wanted to communicate with another historian of science in Canada for example you sat down and wrote a letter; the sending of which and any eventual reply could and often did take several weeks. Truly snail mail. If you wanted to meet non-local historians of science you either went to conferences, although travel was in those days also prohibitively expensive compared to now, or you hoped that they would come round on the lecture circuit. If your university department had the necessary funds they could invite the luminaries of the discipline to guest lectures when they were on tour. We had money and through this system I got to know and converse with such luminaries of the history of maths and logic as Martin, Davis, Joe Dauben and Ivor Grattan-Guinness amongst others.

In the early 1990s I dropped out of university because of serious mental illness, having completed about 95% of my masters degree but never passing the finishing post. Most of the next decade I had little or no contact with the history of science community although I kept up my reading on the discipline. In 2002 I returned to the fold about the same time as I acquired my first computer. The last is somewhat ironic, as compared to many of my contemporaries I came late to the computer although one of the things that I had studied intensely was the history of computing. In fact at the drop of a mega-byte I will launch into a whole lecture series on the history of computing starting with the Babylonian sexagesimal number system and going up to Alan Turing, Johnny von Neumann and beyond. On my return to being a historian of science my first public lecture was on George Boole and the contribution of Boolean algebra to the history of computing. During my absence the emergence of the Internet and the World Wide Web and completely changed the rules of the game. Being a member of the history of science community had taken on a wholly new meaning, although it took me some time to recognise and to experience this.

Initially my interest in the Internet was connected to my love of music, the first website I ever visited was The first maths or science web site was Mark Chu-Carroll’s Good Math Bad Math, which often has a history of maths content. In those days Mark was on Science Blogs and through visits to his blog I stumbled across John Wilkins, an Australian historian and philosopher of biology. John is actually responsible for the existence of this blog set up in 2009, as is here in various places well documented. Through my own blogging and my comments on other related blogs I slowly began to get to know other historians of the sciences scattered all over the world. Direct contact and instant communication that was unthinkable in the 1980s.

In 2010 John together with John Lynch, a lecturer for the history of science at Arizona State University set up the Whewell’s Ghost blog as a collective history of science blog, providing a one stop distribution point for people wishing to read posts by a diverse collection of history of science bloggers. Yours truly was invited to participate, an invitation, which I accepted with alacrity. Amongst those participants whom I didn’t already know was Rebekah “Becky” Higgitt, then a curator at the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich and now a lecturer at Kent University. Unlike myself and other participants Becky didn’t originally have her own blog but used Whewell’s Ghost as her blog. Later she would leave the nest to first found her own blog Teleskopos and then moving on to found with Vanessa Heggie the H-Word blog at the Guardian, a rare history of science blog embedded in a major science blog collective. Very early I realised that Becky and I shared similar attitudes and approaches to the history of science and I christened her, my “#histsci soul sister”. On visits to London I would come to know her personally along with her Greenwich colleague Richard Dunn.

Even before I met her in the flesh, Becky and I became good Internet friends and when I blogged something about Albrecht Dürer and Nürnberg she said that I would probably be interested in the doctoral thesis of her earlier doctoral studies colleague Karl Galle. I said I was and could she supply me with his email address. Having checked that he agreeable, she did so and I wrote an email to Karl asking if he could supply me with a pdf of his thesis. He could and did, and I read it with great interest and we continued to exchange emails. All of this took place over a couple of days. In the 1980s Becky, who I might never have got to know, would have supplied me with a postal address. I would have written a letter and posted it off hoping to maybe get a reply some weeks or even months later. If Karl had then agreed to my request he would have had to photocopy his rather substantial thesis, parcel it up and send it to me at not inconsiderable cost. It then hopefully arriving after a longer period than the letter took in the other direction. Times change!

Sometime later Karl, who lives in Cairo (the one in Egypt) came to Nürnberg to do some research connected to turning his thesis into a book and we met up for the first time, spending a happy summer’s day together rapping about things scientifically historical. This week Karl was back doing some more research, this time with his charming wife, and, as I said at the beginning of this post, we continued that conversation over things scientifically historical during a very pleasant meal sitting on a balcony overlooking the Market Place in Nürnberg.

The Frauenkirche Nürnberg our view during supper yesterday evening Source Wikimedia Commons

The Frauenkirche Nürnberg our view during supper yesterday evening
Source Wikimedia Commons

To recap, through the Internet I got to know a historian of biology living in Sydney, Australia who introduced me to a lady historian living and working in London, England, who in turn introduced me to a historian of Dürer the Nürnberger mathematician, who lives in Cairo, Egypt. I have also had the pleasure of meeting all three of these generous historians in the flesh.

This is just one set of connections that I have made through cyberspace since I decided to become a history of science blogger. I sit in a small flat, in a small village in Middle Franconia physically cut off from the rest of the world but through the medium of the Internet I am an integral part of a flourishing history of science community that is still growing and the members of which can communicate with each other instantly on a daily basis exchanging ideas or sending papers, theses or illustrations equally instantly as data files. Only physical books still have to be sent with the traditional post, although I will admit to having quite a few scans of books on my computer and iPad.

This is a situation that I would not have dreamt of when I started on my personal journey into the thickets of the history of science almost fifty years ago and one that I am very grateful to have experienced and hope to continue to enjoy for some time to come. If you know any historians of the sciences, who still haven’t discovered the Internet history of science community tell them to dive in, the waters lovely.




Filed under Autobiographical, History of science

A 48-hour mind warp!

It all started some months ago with a decidedly odd email inviting me to take part in something calling itself the SciFoo Camp. My first reaction was this was some sort of hoax and that somewhere in the text I was going to be asked to part with some money or sign up for something weird. None of this happened so before deleting this very strange missive I decided to do some googling. The Internet, including a short Wikipedia article, informed me that the SciFoo camp was indeed something real and consisted of an exclusive, invitation only, unconference held once a year at the Googleplex in Mountain View in California. My second reaction was that they had sent the invitation to the wrong person. Come on, I don’t get invited to exclusive invitation only unconferences, or even conferences, anywhere, let alone in the Googleplex.

Intrigued, but now somewhat disconcerted, I carefully reread the email and discovered that the organisers where offering to pay for my hotel and full catering during the three days of this unconference but not for my travelling expenses. End of story! Some weeks I have difficulty finding the train fare to Nürnberg, a plane ticket to San Francisco is definitely not within my meagre budget. I don’t even possess anything I could pawn or sell to finance such an expenditure.

Having reread this exiting but in the end frustrating invitation several times I formulated a more than somewhat cheeky response. I stated that I had first held the email for a hoax and then, having convinced myself that it probably wasn’t, came to the conclusion that it had been sent to me by mistake, being intended for somebody else with the same or similar name. However in the unlikely circumstance that it really was for me I thanked them for their kind and generous offer but pointed out that I must reluctantly decline, as there was no way I could afford the airfare. I clicked the send button, with a metaphorical tear in my eye, and forgot about the whole thing. The last is not quite true, as one doesn’t usually forget something resembling the offer of a lifetime, but I didn’t dwell too much on the subject.

Imagine my surprise when about a month later I received another email saying, no it wasn’t a hoax and yes we did intend to invite you and under the circumstances we have decided to pay your airfare, if you want to come. Now it truly was the offer of a lifetime. I’m one of those people who grew up on West Coast Rock, City lights Beat Poetry and the writings of Jack Kerouac and Ken Kesey amongst others and here was somebody offering me a free return plane ticket to the Bay Area with a wacky unconference thrown in gratis. It didn’t take me long to accept. I still needed money to extend my stay in the Bay Area, I didn’t intend to just fly over for the conference, if I was going to fly that far I wanted to experience a little bit of that San Francisco and district magic. A very generous friend offered me an interest free loan against my inheritance (not very large but enough to pay of this loan), a very nineteenth century thing, to enable me to spend a few days in the Bay Area to recover from jet lag before the unconference and a few more playing tourist and visiting friends and acquaintances before I flew back home.

All was set. I flew over on Wednesday 24 June and due to the combined ineptitude of yours truly and the incompetence of both AirBnB and PayPal I arrived in San Francisco without a place to stay. Not a wise move, as I now know to my cost. After a couple of frustrating hours of finding nothing I finally capitulated and booked into a rather shitty motel room for one night for a little under $300 a rather substantial fraction of my shoestring budget. By this point I had been awake for 23 hours and had decided that sleep at any cost was the better part of valour. The following morning saw my plan-B fail dismally. Before leaving Germany I had transferred money to my PayPal account, PayPal having refused to make the necessary room bookings from my bank account. This transfer had taken six instead of the supposed one to two days finally taking place on the morning when I flew out of Germany. This was one of the reasons I still didn’t have a room when I left. I now intended to book a room online using this money. I quickly found several suitable offers on AirBnB and tried to make the booking. PayPal kindly informed that payment could not be made at this time! In Germany I had not been able to sort my problems with PayPal because their hotline had been out of service, now they had shafted me one more time. Fuck you PayPal!

I now turned to plan-C! Josh Rosenau from the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) had suggested I should look in when I’m in the Bay Area. Having first ascertained the address and the nearest BART station I headed on over to Oakland hoping Josh would be able to help me out of my predicament. When I arrived at the NCSE Josh was in a conference but the truly amazing front of house lady Ninah Pixie (that’s her stage name!) gathered me up, waved her magic wand and solved all of my problems. With a friendly smile and apparently no effort Ninah found me an affordable motel room just around the corner from the NCSE, took me to the bank and helped me to get Euro changed into dollars and turned my evolving nightmare back into a dream.

When I first entered the NCSE Ninah had asked me why I was in the Bay Area and I said that I would be attending SciFoo at the weekend and she said, “Oh, Genie’s going too! She’s coming in in a minute so you can meet her”. Genie is Eugenie Scott the legendary founder of the NCSE and leading warrior in the American struggle against the Creationists, Intelligent Designers and other forms of ant-science inanity, for example she is also heavily involved in the battle against the climate change denialists. I mention all of this because Eugenie is the type of person who gets invited to SciFoo. People who are nationally or even internationally famous and leading lights in the respective fields of science, which of course immediately prompts the question, “how the fuck did I ever get invited to this particular bun fight?” of which more later. Whilst I was at the NCSE I had interesting conversations with both Josh Rosenau and Glen Branch.

On Friday I took the Cal Train down to Palo Alto where I was booked into a hotel for SciFoo. My hotel room was bigger than my flat in Germany! Talk about going from the sublime to the ridiculous. Now I was just a couple of hours away from the SciFoo Camp my first ever unconference. So just what is an unconference, I hear you ask. An unconference is a gathering that has no predetermined theme and no set agenda. The content of the conference is determined by the participants, during the conference itself. I will explain in a little while how that functioned at SciFoo but first of all what is SciFoo. SciFoo is a yearly unconference organised by O’Reilly Media, Digital Science, Nature and Google. The Foo in SciFoo stands for ‘friends of O’Reilly’, O’Reilly being the principal initiator of this particular bun fight.

Around five o’clock I took the shuttle bus from the hotel to Mountain View and the Googleplex curious as to what was awaiting me. The first thing that happened after I arrived in Mountain View and had started tucking into the delicious buffet that had been set up to greet the participants was a soft American voice asking, “Thony is that you?” I looked up and saw Evelyn Lamb, University of Utah mathematician and Scientific American maths blogger. Evelyn and I read each other’s blogs with enthusiasm but we have never met. Unlike myself Evelyn had obviously read the list of participants and knew that I was going to be there. The weekend could not have had a more pleasant beginning. If you like maths and you don’t read Evelyn’s blog, Roots of Unity, you should!

The buffet was followed by the first of a whole series of excellent meals. In terms of food, drinks and snacks Google knows how to take care of its guests. I’m sure I put on several kilos over the three days of SciFoo. We then got introduced to the organisers and to SciFoo. Tim O’Reilly from O’Reilly Media, Timo Hannay from Digital Science, and Cat Allman and Chris DiBona from Google open source plus a lady whose name I have unfortunately forgotten introduced themselves and the SciFoo Camp. The emphasis of the whole introduction was informality and fun. The organisers permit themselves to invite about 250 top scientists from overall in the world to Mountain View for the weekend basically to have fun! Which brings us to the participants. They ranged from Nobel laureates to doctoral students. All of the participants had distinguished themselves in their individual fields and many of them belonged to the category ‘famous author’. I’m not going to name any names because it would be just name-dropping and I had just as fascinating exchanges with the non-well-known, as with the eminent. All of this of course raises the question, how the hell did I ever get an invitation? I remain convinced that it was some sort of administrative fuck up but Timo Hannay assured me that I was supposed to be there. Maybe he was just being nice.

After the introduction by the organisers, we the participants had to introduce ourselves with just three words or three short phrases. There was even a gong in case anybody tried to speak too long. It wasn’t needed. All entered into the spirit of the situation and there were lots of clever and amusing introductions. One lady historian of science (there were three of us all together) from MIT just said, “History Matters!”, which garnered a round of laughter and applause. A famous science writer introduced himself as a high school drop out. Yours truly was fairly boring, “history of science, myth-busting blogger”. An introduction that brought me a series of conversations over the weekend from those curious to know what I mean by myth-busting.

After the introductions the participants posted on a schedule board the topics that they would like to discuss. There were nine conference rooms with eight sessions on the Saturday and three on the Sunday making a grand total of ninety-nine sessions on offer covering a bewildering range of topics in science and science communication. The organisers encourage the participants to leave their comfort zone and attend session outside of their own expertise. Like almost everybody else I followed this advice and as well as attending session close to my own interests I was, for example, in sessions on the peaceful use of drones and on the use of psilocybin to help terminal cancer patients come to terms with their impending deaths. All participants had name tags with their first name written large and their family name written small and we were also encouraged to just approach somebody offer a hand, introduce ourselves and start a conversation. Everybody did just that during all the breaks and all the meals leading to many fascinating exchanges.

The informality encouraged by the organisers led to a delightful phenomenon during the session that mostly took the form of discussions rather than presentations. You had on average about twenty people in a session and without anybody really directing the discussion everybody spoke without anybody interrupting anybody else. All the participants were friendly, courteous, thoughtful, restrained. As somebody emphasised during the closing session there was no hierarchy and absolutely no displays of ego. Given the nature of the participants a truly amazing experience.

So what about content? I’m afraid I’m going to disappoint you on that. If I went into details this, already overlong, post would turn into a medium length book. All I will say is that it was one of the most intellectually intense, stimulating and exhilarating forty-eight hours in my life and I thank the Fates, Norns, Gods, forces of Karma or whatever that led to me being invited to this once in a lifetime experience. On Sunday afternoon, after it was all over, Eugenie Scott was kind enough to drive me back to Oakland on the other side of the Bay to the one I had travelled south on so my weekend included a panoramic round trip of a large part of the Bay Area. The Gods were truly being kind to me.

I spent another four days in the Bay Area playing at being a tourist. I did all the cliché things; I walked the full length of the harbour front in San Francisco (eating a Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia along the way), I wandered around Haight-Ashbury and looked at the Grateful Dead house (did I mention that I’m a Dead Head?) with my friend Darrel Rutkin, historian of astrology, who lives on Masonic and whom I first met on a country bus in Middle Franconia, whilst reading Monica Azzolini’s excellent The Duke and the Stars. I surveyed Golden Gate Park, at the entrance of which Jim Harrison, star Renaissance Mathematicus commentator, picked me up in his car and took me for an excellent Burmese meal. I met up with Twitter friend Shannon Supple, Berkley University’s Bancroft Library librarian for rare books and special collections, and went for a good Spanish meal in Oakland. I visited the legendary City Lights bookstore were I spent ten minutes debating with myself as to whether I should buy a copy of Alan Ginsberg’s Howl (I already own one!) as a memento. In the end the cynic won against the fan and I didn’t! On my last day I walked across the Golden Gate Bridge and down into Sausalito, later taking the ferry back across the Bay to San Francisco. Here I had a true Bay Area experience because the fog was so thick you could only just see the water from the bridge. All my other days had been clear and sunny!

All of the people I met were kind, generous and friendly and my visit to the Bay Area despite its ominously bad beginning turned out to be totally positive and more than I could have ever hoped for. I own a huge debt to the organisers of the SciFoo Camp for having made all of this possible. I still don’t know why they did but they did and for that I thank them with all my heart.

For those who actually come here to read about the history of science, I already have a couple of things in the pipeline and normal blogging will recommence next week.


Filed under Autobiographical

The Renaissance Mathematicus Road Show 2015


At an ungodly hour next Wednesday morning I shall climb into the belly of the big metal bird and fly across the ocean of Athlant to the land of dreams, sunshine and water shortages, California. Why I’m leaving the seclusion and safety of my monk’s cell in Middle Franconia to visit the Bay Area will first be revealed in full upon my return. That is not the purpose of this post.

I shall be very busy over the weekend from 26 to 28 June, and no I don’t have tickets for Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara (sadly), but having taken a 9000 km and 9 hour flight upon myself I thought I’d hang around for a few days in the San Francisco area. If any of the readers of this blog, (are there any readers of this blog?) would like to meet up for a chat, drink (no alcohol), meal, walk or whatever I shall be freely available for such activities from Monday 29 June to Thursday 2 July and would be pleased to meet you, whoever you are. I love meeting my blog and Twitter friends in the flesh and all such meetings over the last six years or so have been both pleasant and stimulating.

If you are in the Bay Area that week and would like to meet up just drop me a line per email, in the comments or on Twitter and we can work something out. I have no fixed commitments over those four days so I’m very flexible.


Filed under Autobiographical