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`I'm Just a Mathematician': Why and How Mathematicians Collaborated with Military

Summary: `I'm Just a Mathematician':
Why and How Mathematicians Collaborated with Military
Ballisticians at G^avre
David Aubin
Abstract. This article examines the way in which mathematicians were led to
contribute to ballistic studies in France during World War I. It pays special at-
tention to the French Navy's G^avre Experiments Commission first established
in 1829, where university professor Jules Haag, military engineer Maurice Gar-
nier and high school teacher Os´ee Marcus jointly developed a new method for
computing ballistic trajectories (the so­called GHM method). It highlights
the difficulties and successes encountered by mathematicians when they ap-
proached this military culture that already was mathematically sophisticated.
It reviews briefly the history of ballistics at G^avre before the First World War
to understand the bitter feeling among artillerymen serving on the front about
the inadequacies of their ballistic tables. In a final part, the technical con-
tributions made by mathematicians, their experimental practices, and their
effort for dissiminating their results are examined. This paper focuses on the
role of several tensions between civilians and military science, betwen theory
and experiment, between front and rear, etc. for undertanding the value of
mathematicians' contributions to the war effort.


Source: Aubin, David - Institut de Mathématiques de Jussieu, Université Pierre-et-Marie-Curie, Paris 6


Collections: Mathematics; Multidisciplinary Databases and Resources