David Mumford

Archive for Reprints, Notes, Talks, and Blog

Professor Emeritus
Brown and Harvard Universities

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The purpose of this web site

I have lived through a startling transition in the mechanics of scholarly work. When I started as a graduate student, research was done in libraries, papers were in journals and books were treasured items for lifelong consultation. The background to this page is my wife's shot of the University Library in Coimbra, Portugal. Widener Library at Harvard used to evoke similar feelings in me. But now more and more is going online, for better or for worse.

One wonders who worries about issues of archiving. Babylonian tablets are a miracle of preservation - their condition even improved by fire and surviving for four millennia. But Victorian publications are largely on acid paper and are rapidly crumbling. How long will the "pdf" and "doc" formats last and will our hard drives lose bits? Anyway, I thought a digital archive was a sensible approach while we are in the midst of a chaotic period of change. This web site, put together with the help of my son Peter is a considered course.

I also believe the research enterprise depends on the free dissemination of scholarly material and I have no faith that any commercial publishers are 'on our side' as they are in no way answerable to the scholarly community. I hereby grant all of my works to the public domain, including digital rights to all material which I never explicitly granted to any publisher. Material in this web site is granted as "fair use" to any and all scholars and interested readers.

I have divided my material into four categories: algebraic geometry, vision, “beyond research” (topics such as history of math, philosophy of math, and math education that are neither pure nor applied math) and a blog for expressing ideas more informally. In the 21st century, it's very tempting to set up an informal outlet where one can put down some thoughts that are not in a final publishable form. I have been inspired to do this by one of my heroes, Shen Kuo, a polymath in the Northern Song dynasty, was sent into exile during his retirement and wrote down a wonderful eclectic set of thoughts in his Dream Pool Essays (Dream Pool or Dream Brook being the name of his retirement villa). Because I have a bit of attention deficit disorder, the blog wanders over many topics with half-baked ideas that I am bit old to pursue deeply.

Hopefully the 'navbar' above makes searches easy. This web site is still under development. Some of my papers are in the Harvard archive 'DASH' (Digital Access to Scholarship at Harvard with URL dash.harvard.edu), some AMS journals are on line and some of my preprints are in the arXiv: I am putting links for these in the corresponding entry. Also 'research gate.net' seems to be sweeping up a subset of my papers. I have scanned and linked most of my remaining reprints, note: for non-commercial use only.