Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

What is considered a "mathematician"?

  1. Studies math as a hobby

    6 vote(s)
    37.5%
  2. Has a bachelor's or equivalent in Mathematics

    5 vote(s)
    31.3%
  3. Has a Master's or equivalent in Mathematics

    6 vote(s)
    37.5%
  4. Has a PhD or equivalent in Mathematics

    8 vote(s)
    50.0%
  5. Has a PhD in another field but has done published research in mathematical problems

    6 vote(s)
    37.5%
  6. Is a tenured professor in Mathematics

    6 vote(s)
    37.5%
Multiple votes are allowed.
  1. Oct 8, 2014 #1
    What type of credentials generally qualify one to be called a "mathematician"?

    I've added a poll. You can choose more than one response if you like. I'd like to hear the community's opinion.

    I'd say someone who has studied graduate level mathematics and uses math in their daily life or work would be considered a mathematician.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 8, 2014 #2
    If you publish in peer reviewed mathematical journals and conduct mathematical research I'd say you're a Mathematician. If not, then you're not. You're an engineer, physisist or some other consumer of mathematical knowledge. The goal of a Mathematician is to produce knowledge.
     
  4. Oct 8, 2014 #3

    russ_watters

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Such labels usually refer to one's profession. If I studied math in school, but served drinks for a living, I'd be a bartender, not a mathematician.
     
  5. Oct 8, 2014 #4

    BobG

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    I find this very disheartening, as I studied strippers in college.

    Yes, I agree the label should apply to what you do for a living, regardless of what you studied in school - at least in a formal sense.

    It's very common to also identify what one does for a hobby - such as an amateur astronomer or an amateur ham radio operator. Except a lot of amateurs actually contribute enough to the astronomy community or the radio community that I might be tempted to just omit the amateur part.

    In other words, I don't think there's some hard and fast line you can't cross (which is why I also included the PhD that publishes math papers), but I'd strongly tend towards what one does for a profession.
     
  6. Oct 8, 2014 #5

    russ_watters

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Not seeing the problem and I don't want to: Keep it on, Bob!
    Actually, as a self-labeled amateur astronomer, I use the term to mean that I'm a little more serious than a typical hobbyist, but I don't get paid for it. Even if I ever discover a comet or an exoplanet, I don't think I'd drop the label "amateur" out of respect for the professionals.
     
  7. Oct 8, 2014 #6
    Based on the fact Ramanujan is called a mathematician, I don't think any official credentials or academic accomplishments are necessary.
     
  8. Oct 8, 2014 #7

    Pythagorean

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    If it's hobby, I'm a sailor, if it's BS, I'm a physicist, if it's MS, I'm a neurophysicist, if it's PhD, I'm a theoretical neuroscientist / applied mathematician, if it's published work, I'm a neuro-chaostician, if it's tenured job, I'm nothing. Also, my unsigned band would have be believe I'm a musician.

    I probably have made the most money as a commercial fisherman.

    Not sure what I am anymore, thanks.
     
  9. Oct 8, 2014 #8

    russ_watters

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    I would disagree that he had no academic accomplishments, but he was certainly employed as a mathematician, so it fits my definition.
     
  10. Oct 8, 2014 #9

    Evo

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    My definition is someone employed as a mathematician. A degree alone means nothing.
     
  11. Oct 8, 2014 #10

    symbolipoint

    User Avatar
    Homework Helper
    Education Advisor
    Gold Member

    Nearest to this one, but not exactly:

    You would need to be at an advanced level, regardless of official credentials or verifiable transcripts. A few people on occasion, labeled me as a "mathematician", but they are wrong, and I do not identify myself as one. With only undergraduate degree in one of the sciences along with the necessary mathematics course credit, and also with true-in-life employed experience using basic algebra and common geometry, this is not enough to be a genuine mathematician. From many peoples' point of view, I have an advanced knowledge and skill in what I know; but that is only according to their limited viewpoint and experiences. From the understanding of more educated and studied peoples' point of view, such as of the many members here in this forum, I am just one of the many "consumers" of mathematics, certainly not any mathematician.

    What is or is not a mathematician does not come from taking an opinion poll.

    Mathematician: Person who studies mathematics at an advanced level and performs research in the subject. Alternatively, a person who has studied at an advanced level and performs mathematical applied development work.
     
  12. Oct 8, 2014 #11

    Evo

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Agreed symbolipoint.
     
  13. Oct 8, 2014 #12
    What do you think were his academic accomplishments? It doesn't look like he ever finished college or got a degree.

    When Hardy at Cambridge found out about him, Ramanujan was employed as an office clerk. You could stretch his long visit to Cambridge into an "employment" of sorts, though it was more like a grant, but you'd be saying he wasn't a mathematician until his arrival in England. Hardy invited him, however, recognizing he was already a remarkable mathematician.
     
  14. Oct 8, 2014 #13

    Pythagorean

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I think several significant publications are sufficient. I would have considered Einstein a physicist even when he was employed as a patent clerk because of his contributions to science, not who signed his paycheck.
     
  15. Oct 8, 2014 #14

    Rocket50

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I think a mathematician is anyone who is serious about mathematics and does it beyond the undergraduate level. I don't think degree qualifications matter much in this case.
     
  16. Oct 8, 2014 #15
    I agree, but consider this: Suppose Einstein remained a patent examiner all his life, never published, and only after his death were his 5 famous papers discovered. Was he still a physicist?
     
  17. Oct 8, 2014 #16

    Pythagorean

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    That would be a very grey area. We would recognize him as a physicist today, yes, still probably idolize him in some way as an ideal scientist. But in his time he would not have been recognized as such, or perhaps trivialized: a scientist at heart.
     
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2014
  18. Oct 8, 2014 #17

    russ_watters

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    According to his wiki, he was awarded a degree based on his professional accomplishments.
    Yes, a research grant would definitely count as employment as a mathematician.
    Professional vs amateur. It can be a fine line but it is an unknown line until a person gets judged: Anyone can write a book, but they aren't an author until they sell it. Until then, it is just words on a page and presumptuous to give yourself the label. Until someone recognized his math had value, he wasn't a mathematician, he was just a guy doing math of unknonw value. A person doesn't get to decide his own standing as a professional -- his potential peers make the decision.
    We could call him that, but he could not call himself that. Otherwise:

    I'm a poet, mason, artist, physicist, chemist, biologist, chef, accountant and lawyer. Because I get to label myself for everything I've dabbled in, right?
     
  19. Oct 8, 2014 #18

    Pythagorean

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Referring to Einstein's five as "dabbling" would be quite an understatement.
     
  20. Oct 8, 2014 #19

    russ_watters

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Agreed -- But I was talking about myself, not Einstein. Though since you've never seen my paintings, since I self-label as an "artist", you must assume I'm Picasso, right?
     
  21. Oct 8, 2014 #20
    All of which he accomplished without a degree. Being a mathematician preceded the academic credential.

    Extending my conversation with Pythagorean, by your logic Einstein was an amateur physicist when he wrote all his greatest papers, but suddenly became a professional when those papers were recognized as great.

    I don't buy your amateur/professional dichotomy at all. Whether a person is getting paid for their work or not can easily have nothing whatever to do with the quality of the work, and whether or not they should be called "physicist" or "mathematician." Ramanujan was obviously a remarkable mathematician before Hardy ever heard of him, just as Einstein was a remarkable physicist before he became a household word. It would be ridiculous to say Einstein wasn't a physicist when he wrote the five papers.
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook




Similar Discussions: What is considered a "mathematician"?
  1. Blind mathematicians (Replies: 24)

Loading...