Mathematicians at war: Volterra and his French colleagues in World War I

Series: Archimedes (22)

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Numerous scientists have taken part in the war effort during World War I, but few gave it the passionate energy of the prominent Italian mathematician Volterra. As a convinced supporter of the cause of Britain and France, he struggled vigorously to carry Italy into the war in May 1915 and then developed a frenetic activity to support the war effort, going himself to the front, even though he was 55. This activity found an adequate echo with his French colleagues Borel, Hadamard and Picard. The huge correspondence they exchanged during the war, gives an extraordinary view of these activities, and raises numerous fundamental questions about the role of a scientist, and particularly a mathematician during WW I. It also offers a vivid documentation about the intellectual life of the time ; Volterra's and Borel's circles in particular were extremely wide and the range of their interests was not limited to their field of specialization. The book proposes the complete transcription of the aforementioned correspondence, annotated with numerous footnotes to give details on the contents. It also offers a general historical introduction to the context of the letters and several complements on themes related to the academic exchanges between France and Italy during the war.