The Historical Proofs Archive#

In blog posts like The Math Annotation Project and A Framework for an Art History of Proofs, we have talked about supporting new ways of learning from the mathematics that has come before us. When we do that, we are engaging in a kind of historical study.

In any historical study, we distinguish between primary sources – the records or artifacts we aim to investigate – and secondary sources, i.e. commentary or scholarly works thereon.

What will be the primary and secondary sources when we start writing Proofscape repos?

One Primary Source#

When it comes to studying the history of proofs, it makes sense to have a single, large, collaborative project to represent the primary sources – the proofs themselves – in Proofscape.

Therefore Alpine Mathematics is organizing the Historical Proofs Archive. This is a Proofscape repo, living at gh.alpinemath.histarch, to which everyone is invited to contribute.

The goal is to represent any and all mathematics of historical significance here. As a guide to the authors whose work should be represented, we should think of mathematicians who would be likely to be represented in the MacTutor History of Mathematics archive.

Many Secondary Sources#

With gh.alpinemath.histarch available as a primary source, the field is wide open for anyone to offer their own thoughts and commentary on the art of proof writing, by authoring their own Proofscape repos as secondary sources.

To go to our favorite analogy with chess, gh.alpinemath.histarch should be like a database of all chess games ever played at all major tournaments, while your repo of annotations or mine could be like Chernev’s or Bronstein’s books of commentary on great games. (At least, we can aspire to write something so insightful!)

Alpine Mathematics also organizes a couple of collaborative secondary sources:

which support many easy ways of contributing.