saving geometry


A secret society of the créme de la créme of French mathematicians epitomized the shift in the mathematical zeitgeist of the early 20th century. Writing under the pseudonym Nicolas Bourbakis, the collective set out in the 1930s to rewrite the history of mathematics in one grand mathematical treatise, and perhaps the most distinctive feature of their work was the absence of diagrams.

The Bourbakis espoused mathematical rationality and rigor. They believed the subjective and fallible visual sense was easily led astray, falling victim to impressionistic reasoning. In 1959, at a conference in France addressing the need to overhaul the French education system, Jean Dieudonné, a founding member of the Bourbakis and the group’s scribe, infamously proclaimed: “Down with Euclid! Death to Triangles!”

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