Randolph faculty members lead 2-week study seminars across a range of academic disciplines and in countries around the globe either during winter break, spring break, or the summer.
After completion of one semester of study, all students are encouraged to participate in these unique programs, which may have prerequisite courses and include pre-departure sessions and post-trip activities.
Please see Associate Provost Goodjohn in the Provost’s Office for more information on prices and financial aid available and watch portal announcements for dates and times of info sessions.
A History of Numbers: Intercultural Studies in Italy and Greece
May 18-27, 2022*
Leader: Marc Ordower, Associate Professor of Mathematics
For most, mathematically inclined or not, the concept of number is an elementary building block of our mental landscape. We consult this notion regularly to make sense of the world around us. It is nearly inconceivable that our conception of number is something that developed in stages: that the abstraction of number actually comprises a host of associated ideas, forged over the course of millennia.
The development of numbers didn’t take place all within one culture, or one geographical region. Often and unsurprisingly, cultures that had no contact with one another produced parallel development. For instance, the Babylonians and Mayans developed similar numbering systems, base 60 and base 20, respectively. Both cultures required a highly divisible base for their respective number systems in order to effectively explore their mutual interests in astronomy and architecture. These two cultures, overlapping in neither space nor time, discovered identical mathematical solutions to identical mathematical needs.
While the development of the concept of number was spread across the globe, for over 1000 years Greece and the Rome formed a nexus for mathematical ideas both developed locally and also incorporated from the Near East, and North Africa. Pythagoras, Archimedes, Eratosthenes, Fibonacci, and many others laid the arithmetic (and more generally the mathematical) groundwork later built upon by the mathematicians and scientists of the modern period. These luminaries and the landscapes where they lived and worked are inexorably linked: Archimedes seminal work came to a tragic end on the beaches of Syracuse; Fibonacci was born and worked in Pisa, and saw construction begin on a well-known but ultimately structurally flawed tower when he was three years old.
A visit to Italy and Greece can enrich one’s life in many ways. These two countries abound with millennia of history and culture, and it is my wish that we partake in as varied an encounter as possible. But among the many things I hope we can take away from this experience will be a better understanding of the culture and setting that gave rise to some of the most inventive thinkers in history.
For more information on scholarships/grant, please contact Associate Provost Bunny Goodjohn.
* dates subject to change