Jim Ritter



Prof. em for the History of Science and Physics at the Institute of Mathematics, Jussieu-Paris Rive Gauche, Sorbonne Université, Paris (Frankreich)

Resident at the Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften:
April 2018

Research topic at the Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften:
»Algorithmic knowledge in Egypt and Mesopotamia« (in collaboration with Annette Imhausen)

Project outline:
This project aims to construct a database for ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian mathematical problem texts, as a tool for the further development of an algorithmic approach to the study of such corpora; an approach initiated by Jim Ritter and further developed in collaboration with Annette Imhausen. The algorithmic approach, which by means of a linguistic and logical analysis of the solution algorithms represented by several hundred Mesopotamian and Egyptian examples, lends itself particularly well to a systematic approach to the full collection of texts, permitting searches for patterning in sequences of operators both within a given corpus and between corpora; hence the interest in a full database with both linguistic and mathematical information. (Jim Ritter)

Funding of the stay:
Excellence Cluster »The formation of normative orders«

Research partner:
Jim Ritter follows the invitation of Annette Imhausen (Professor for the History of Science at Goethe University Frankfurt am Main) and the Cluster of Excellence »The Formation of Normative Orders«.

Scholarly profile of Jim Ritter


The Historian of Science and Physicist Jim Ritter is an emeritus professor of the Université de Paris 8 (Saint-Denis), where he taught at the Département de Mathématiques from 1994 to 2011. Since 2009, he is an Associate Researcher at the Institut de mathématiques de Jussieu-Paris Rive Gauche, Sorbonne Université, Paris (France). His research focuses on the history of rational practices in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia and on the history of general relativity and unified theories.

Selected publications:
  1. »Science and Reason in Ancient Mesopotamia«, in: Xavier Faivre, Brigitte Lion and Cécile Miches (eds.), Et il y eut un esprit dans l’Homme. Jean Bottéro et la Mésopotamie, Paris: De Boccard 2009, p. 83-103.
  2. »Geometry as Physics: Oswald Veblen and the Princeton School«, in: Karl-Heinz Schlote and Martina Schneider (eds.), Mathematics meets Physics, Frankfurt a.M.: Harri Deutsch 2011, p. 145-179.
  3. »Otto Neugebauer and Ancient Egypt«, in: Alexander Jones, Christine Proust and John Steele (eds.), A Mathematician’s Journeys: Otto Neugebauer and Modern Transformations of Ancient Science, New York: Springer 2015, p. 127-163.
  4. »Translating Babylonian Mathematical Problem Texts«, in: Annette Imhausen and Tanja Pommerening (eds.), Translating Writings of Early Scholars in the Ancient Near East, Egypt, Greece, And Rome, Berlin/New York: de Gruyter 2017, p. 75-123.