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Prof. Dr.

Karine Chemla

Wahljahr: 2004
Sektion: Wissenschafts- und Medizingeschichte
Stadt: Paris
Land: Frankreich
CV Karine Chemla - Englisch (pdf)


Karine Chemla's research work on the history of mathematics, so far mainly devoted to ancient China, aims at inquiring into two questions. On the one hand, she seeks to understand what a mathematical culture may mean. To this end, she studies the types of text, the modes of inquiry that a given social group elaborates, the epistemological values that it primarily praises, when carrying out mathematical work. And she tries to understand which correlations can be established between these factors and the mathematical concepts or results obtained.

Comparative study constitutes a key method in this respect. It allows exporting into new areas of research questions in history and philosophy of science that were inspired by studying closely the case of ancient China. In this regard, she devotes much attention to the shaping and the interpretation of scientific texts.

On the other hand, she has the project of understanding how mathematics as a world body of knowledge took shape and what this tells us with respect to the nature of mathematics. Here too, even though in a different way, comparative method proves essential. The key problem is here to understand how the universality of mathematical knowledge is shaped in a concrete history.


  • since 2005 Directrice de recherche 1e classe, Centre National de la recherche scientifique, France
  • 1997-2006 Directrice de recherche 2e classe, Centre National de la recherche scientifique, France
  • 1986-1997 Chargée de recherche 1e classe, Centre National de la recherche scientifique, France
  • 1982-1986 Chargée de recherche 2e classe, Centre National de la recherche scientifique, France
  • 1982 Ph.D., Mathematics (speciality History of mathematics), University Paris 13, France
  • 1976-1982 Ecole Normale Supérieure de Jeunes Filles (mathematics) , France
  • 1979 Master of mathematics (Field: ergodic theory) , University Paris 7, France
  • 1978 Agrégation de mathématiques, France
  • 1975-1977 Bachelor and beginning of master, mathematics, University Paris 7, France


  • since 2011 Member of the French National Committee for History and Philosophy of Science (attached to the Académie des Sciences), since 1999. 2011: Elected President.
  • since 2010 Member of the Board of the Conseil d'Orientation Scientifique et Pédagogique (COSP) of the group of Universities PRES "Sorbonne Paris Cité"
  • 2009-2013 Assistant Secretary General of the Council of the Division of History of Science and Technology
  • 2005-2013 Member of the International Commission of Science and Cultural Diversity (IASCUD) of the Division of History and Philosophy of Science, since 2001; elected vice president of the Bureau, since 2005: General secretary
  • since 1997 Member of the scientific council of the Institut des Hautes Etudes Chinoises – Collège de France
  • since 1992 Member of the International Commission for the History of Mathematics, representing France


  • 2011-2016 Principal Investigator of the ERC Advanced Research Grant "Mathematical Sciences in the Ancient World" (SAW)
  • 2009-2013 Member of the project “History of numerical tables" (resp. D. Tournès)
  • 2003-2007 Director of the French Nation-wide Interdisciplinary Program CNRS-Ministry of Research "History of knowledge"
  • 2002 Head of the International Project of Advanced Study "History and historiography of mathematical proof in ancient traditions", Columbia University-MSH-REHSEIS.2

Honours and Memberships

  • 2010 Senior Fellow at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, New York University, UK
  • 2009 "Chinese Academy of Sciences Visiting Professorship for Senior Foreign Scientists" Fellowship, Chinese Academy of Science, 2009, for a stay in China in 2010
  • 2008 Silver Medal Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS), France
  • 2006 Award, with Guo Shuchun, of the Prize Ikuo HIRAYAMA, Academy of Inscriptions & Belles-Lettres for the book Les Neuf chapitres. Le classique mathématique de la Chine ancienne et ses commentaires
  • 2006 Award of the Prize Binoux, Henri de Parville, Jean-Jacques Berger, Remlinger from the French Academy of science
  • since 2005 Effective member of the Académie internationale d'histoire des sciences
  • 1994-1995 Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study, Berlin (Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin), Germany




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