Sunday, April 29, 2012

Becoming Charlie

Poincaré died one hundred years ago, in July 1912. He was a French mathematician who also wrote essays on the nature of mathematics.  I happened to visit his Wikipedia page today, which would be his 158th birthday anniversary.  In the days before Wikipedia, this was a leading source for Poincaré's biography online in English. Also try this.

I wonder how many mathematicians there are in the world.
If "a mathematician is a person with an extensive knowledge of mathematics, a field that has been informally defined as being concerned with numbers, data, collection, quantity, structure, space, and change" (source) then I suspect that the number of people that I would consider to be mathematicians is 100,000 - 200,000.

You could think about membership of the American Mathematical Society (about 30,000)
Multiply by 3 (for counterparts in Europe/former SovietUnion and Other) = 90,000.
Double that number to reflect those outside pure mathematics but close enough = 180,000.

I also like this estimate of 150,000 people.

Other fun data: SIAM, Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics has ~13,000 members, while Association of Women in Mathematics has ~2000 members

These days I'm watching season 5 of NUMB3RS again.  Charlie is a fictional math genius who teaches at CalSci but often assists his crime-busting brother at the FBI.  This TV show features imaginative and engaging stories of math life.  I find it inspiring.  


  1. So, this must be the 200th time I tried to comment on this post.

    Anyway, are there any figures about the number of Math degree holders in Nigeria? If yes, what percent of them are practicing, or are in a closely related field (such as Computer Science).

    I like Numb3rs, and I like the fact that a math show is available on tv,but sometimes I feel like they are more interested in show math symbols than in accuracy. And once in a while they just seem to engage in magic. I know it is a tv show, and I shouldn't worry that they stretch the truth a little, but it is just a little annoying still.

    That said, it is a great show, and they do a good job of explaining math concepts in basic terms to non math types.

  2. Math degree holders - probably, via university data, probably at Ministry. But graduating BSc in math may not be sufficient qualification for me to count you as a mathematician e.g. if your career choice after the math degree is politics and you do not pursue major activities in math (which you only studied in the first place because you couldn't get into your first or second choice...)

  3. Re: commenting problem, I just faced the same, trying to comment (Opera browser on blackberry phone) at my lifelib blog. It didn't work. But using the native BB browser did. Now using native browser to send this, it failed. I feel your pain. Sorry. Trying Opera Mini again. If you can read this, it worked.

  4. That comment was also supposed to include "what percentage are practicing". Talking about math degrees, I recently had an argument with a friend who claimed that Deeper Life overseer (or some other Pentecostal head) was one of the greatest Mathematicians in the world! Reason? He was a very good math student, and even finished with a first class degree. he didn't practice for long, though. He took offense when I pointed out that if he hadn't made any improvements/increments to the math body of knowledge he was a nobody. of course, my friend took offense over why i'd call a "man of god" a nobody.

    yes, I can see your comment.


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