World Academic Lineage

My academic lineage can apparently be traced back to Isaac Newton, through fifteen generations of PhD advisor-student relationships, and further back to Galileo Galilei, through eighteen generations:

Nicolo Fontana Tartaglia (mathematician, engineer; translations of Archimedes and Euclid, Cardano-Tartaglia formula for the roots of a cubic)
→ Ostilio Ricci (mathematician; mathematics applied to mechanics and engineering)
Galileo de' Galilei (physicist, mathematician, astronomer, philosopher; observational astronomy, heliocentrism)
→ Vincenzio Viviani (mathematician and physicist; calculation of speed of sound)
→ Isaac Barrow (mathematician; infinitesimal calculus, the tangent, the fundamental theorem of calculus)
Issac Newton (physicist, mathematician, astromomer, natural philospher, alchemist, theologian; differential and integral calculus, universal gravitation, three laws of motion, first reflecting telescope, Newton's method for finding roots of a function)
→ Roger Cotes (mathematician; quadrature, Newton-Cotes formulas, computational methods for astronomy and mathematics, integral calculus, interpolation, numerical analysis)
→ Robert Smith (mathematician; optics, music theory)
→ Walter Taylor (mathematician, classic Greek)
→ Stephen Whisson (mathematician)
→ Thomas Postlethwaite (mathematician, clergyman)
→ Thomas Jones (mathematician)
→ Adam Sedgwick (mathematician, geologist; geologic timescales)
→ William Hopkins (mathematician, geologist; melting point increases with pressure)
→ Sir Francis Galton (anthropologist, geographer, meteorologist, statistician; concept of correlation, regression toward the mean)
→ Karl Pearson (mathematician; established discipline of mathematical statistics)
→ Phillip Hall (mathematician; group theory, finite groups, Hall-Littlewood polynomial)
→ Garrett Birkhoff (mathematician; lattice theory, universal algebra, hydrodynamics, positive operators, iterative methods, numerical linear algebra, cubic splines)
→ Martin Schultz (mathematician; numerical analysis, partial differential equations, scientific computing, the finite element method; high performance computing)
→ Faisal Saied (mathematician; numerical analysis, methods for the time-dependent Schroedinger equation, ocean acoustics, multilevel methods)
→ Michael Holst (mathematics and physics; etc)

The path above can be traced back the twenty generations to Tartaglia, by starting from my node on the AMS Genealogy Webpage. You can go back even further (to at least the year 1363), depending on which branch you take on some of the dual-advisor cases. The first node in the particular subtree above, namely Nicolo Tartaglia, was self-taught, and had no advisor. He is usually credited with co-discovering the formula for the roots of a cubic polynomial (the "Cardano-Tartaglia formula").

It continues to astound me that in a fairly typical day at the office, I am using many of the things developed by the people on the list above. For example, most of the mathematical language I use (the calculus) is due partly to Newton and Barrow, and what I am using the language for is to develop, analyze, and solve systems of partial differential equations (PDE) that represent a predictive mathematical model of a particular physical system; an example would be the Poisson equation describing Newton's universal gravitation (or the generalization due to Einstein that is represented mathematically as the Einstein equations). I typically have to develop algorithms for solving such systems of PDE using computers, and the best all-around algorithm for solving such systems when they are nonlinear is, astoundingly, due to Newton (Newton's method). Representing the PDE as an approximate algebraic system on a computer is known as a discretization method, such as the finite element method; these methods involve techniques developed by Cotes and others (interpolation and quadrature formulae), providing the mathematical foundations of numerical analysis and modern computational science. The resulting algebraic systems must be solved using iterative methods, which have their foundations in the work of Birkhoff, and is related to later work done by Schultz, Saied, and many others.

Erdös Number

A published mathematician's Erdös Number is defined to be the number of edges in a graph connecting the particular mathematician to Erdös, where each mathematican is represented as a vertex in the graph, and each co-authored published work is an edge connecting two vertices. The same publication can produce multiple edges in the graph in the case of more than two co-authors. This definition can obviously be used for other famous mathematicians and scientists, by counting the number of edges required to reach the particular individual. Below are some examples of connected paths to particular mathematicians and physicists.

My Erdös number is 3, by the following path (several exist):
  • Erdös → Barak → Saylor → Holst
My von Neumann number is 4, by the following path:
  • von Neumann → Chandrasekhar → Detweiler → Lindblom → Holst
My Wheeler number is 4, by the following path:
  • Wheeler → Brill → Isenberg → Lindblom → Holst
My Smale number is 4, by the following path:
  • Smale → Thom → Holmes → Titi → Holst
My Steinhaus number is 4, by the following path:
  • Steinhaus → Mycielski → Faber → Manteuffel → Holst
My Einstein number is 5, by the following path:
  • Einstein → Bergmann → Lebowitz → Collet → Titi → Holst
My Hilbert number is 5, by the following path:
  • Hilbert → Courant → Lax → Constantin → Titi → Holst
My Riemann number is 6, by the following path:
  • Riemann → Landau → Davenport → Erdös → Barak → Saylor → Holst
My Riesz number is 6, by the following path:
  • Riesz → Livingston → Lorch → Sidon → Varga → Manteuffel → Holst
My Minkowski number is 6, by the following path:
  • Minkowski → Einstein → Bergmann → Lebowitz → Collet → Titi → Holst
My Gauss number is 7, by the following path:
  • Gauss → Minkowski → Einstein → Bergmann → Lebowitz → Collet → Titi → Holst

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