Mathematics meets physics

Mathematics meets physics – General and local aspects

Today the mutual influences between mathematics and physics are not questioned in general, even if these might only be perceived as expressing the facts of nature in a more simple and clear way by means of mathematical formulae. However, the interrelations between mathematics and physics are more extensive and also much deeper: On the one hand an appropriate mathematical description of physical phenomena is able to produce new insights in their structures and might facilitate the deduction of further physical connections. On the other hand the search for such a description supplies various ideas to develop mathematics further. A careful look at this since thousands of years existing interrelationship between mathematics and physics shows varied changes which are determined by the internal development of the disciplines as well as by varying external conditions.

The last two centuries are of special interest in this respect since they can be characterised by a large growth of knowledge in both disciplines with the forming of many sub-disciplines and by fundamental changes through new theories and methods such as the set-theoretic penetration of mathematics, quantum theory or the principle of general relativity. In general relativity theory and in quantum theory the formation of physical theories was inseparable from new mathematical concepts – so much so that Y. Manin said with regard to the changed interrelation between mathematics and physics that „without the mathematical language physicists couldn’t even say what they were seeing“.

The aim of the conference is to capture and analyse the changes of this interrelationship in the 19th and the first half of the 20th century. The attention should be put on the following aspects:

– characteristic features of the mathematisation of sub-disciplines of physics

– repercussions of this process of mathematisation of physics upon mathematics

– development of the relationship between mathematical and theoretical physics

– the shaping of the interrelationship between mathematics and physics by individual scientists in local contexts

General features of this interrelationship are going to be brought out by comparing different local developments among each other and also to the sketched larger processes.


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