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Not surprisingly, the authorities were not pleased. Creative Discomfort: The Culture … 67 regulation, if not close altogether.
Felix Berezin: Life and Death of the Mastermind of Supermathematics
He submitted a formal appeal to the Rector of Moscow University Rem Khokhlov: [A]mong the traditions of our Department, there has always been a very free atmosphere of active participation of mathematicians, who are not members of the faculty, possibility to lead seminars or specialized courses either without pay or on hourly payments. After his death, the letter fell into the hands of the administration of the Faculty of Mathematics and Mechanics—the very same people about whom Berezin had complained.
As a punishment, Berezin was for- bidden to travel abroad; the restrictive policies towards open seminars, of course, did not change. Yet this community cultivated a distinct marginal identity and formed an idealistic ethos, which valued mathematics not merely as an occupation but as a way of life. Gerovitch disciples, the unquestionable authority of the seminar leader, the relentless and sometimes rude questioning of speakers, and the importance of the seminar as a social hub.
In one aspect, however, the Gelfand seminar was different from the rest. It did not complement an existing institutional structure; it was an institution in its own right. In this sense, it transcended its purely intellectual function and created a lifeworld of its own, with its own time, space, ritual, speech style, lofty goals, and carnival entertainment.
The fluid time and semi-private space of the Gelfand seminar effectively blurred the boundary between the seminar proper and the informal conversations that preceded and followed it. It also blurred the boundary between mathematics as an academic activity and as a personal, even spiritual experience. Around the Gelfand seminar emerged a community dedicated to mathematics far beyond any formal obligation of study or work. For them, mathematics was a way of life—not very comfortable, somewhat unsafe, but exciting and highly rewarding— not in the common sense of formal distinctions and institutional careers, but in the sense of hard-won recognition by peers and occasionally even by Gelfand himself.
I recall the powerful feeling, familiar to many, that you are being led into a captivating new world, where you will be working on the most important problems in the world in the company of enormously talented and enthusiastic people. And this new world is much closer and more accessible than you thought.
Felix Berezin: Life and Death of the Mastermind of Supermathematics - PDF Free Download
Creative Discomfort: The Culture … 69 the U. For the mentor, the choice was obvious: only in Russia could one do good mathematics. Only then can you realize your potential. Here, in America, this is impossible. There are too many distractions and temptations. How can you possibly focus on your work here? The mentor went back to Russia and continued doing mathematics, despite the hardships of the post-Soviet times.
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Parallel worlds: formal structures and informal mechanisms of postwar soviet mathematics. Historia Scientiarum, 22 3 , — Gindikin, S. Gindikin Eds. Ginzburg, V. Yuri Ivanovich Manin. Moscow Mathematical Journal, 2 2 To whom it may concern. Notices of the AMS, 59 3. Kazhdan, D. Gelfand on the theory of representations. Notices of the AMS, 60 1.
Khovanskii, A. Kirillov, A. Yartseva Ed. Moscow: Fortuna. Kostant, B. Landis, E. About mathematics at Moscow State University in the late s and early s. Duren Eds. Providence, R. Lax, P. Malinetskii, G. Predislovie redaktora. In Yu. Kotov, Novye matematicheskie podkhody k zadacham meditsinskoi diagnostiki. Moscow: URSS. In Mikhail Shifman Ed. Gerovitch Pakhomov, V. O reforme obrazovaniia v Rossii. Piatetski-Shapiro, I. Retakh, V. Israel Moiseevich Gelfand. Shifman, M.
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Felix Berezin was an outstanding Soviet mathematician who in the s and 70s was the driving force behind the emergence of the branch of mathematics now known as supermathematics. The integral over the anticommuting Grassmann variables that he introduced in the s laid the foundation for the path integral formulation of quantum field theory with fermions, the heart of modern supersymmetric field theories and superstrings.
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The Berezin integral is named for him, as is the closely related construction of the Berezinian, which may be regarded as the superanalog of the determinant. The painting on the cover Where is Everybody? The painting on page 1 Again is courtesy of the artist. The painting on page 53 One-Way Ticket is from the M. Shifman collection. Black-andwhite sketches are by Yuri Korjevsky M. All photographs are from the collection of Elena Karpel.
All rights reserved. I thank the American Mathematical Society for their kind permission to reprint the articles of V. Shubin, N. Natalie Berezin The Last Journey. Remembering F. The Berezin integral is the crucial element in this construction.