In each period of Irish history, mathematical equations represented not only solutions to technical problems, they also represented a vision of what Ireland could and should be. Mathematicians are not typically thought of as playing an important role in building a nation, but it turns out that mathematics—no less than poetry, drama, and music—has also been a medium for imagining and creating Ireland. In the seventeenth century, William Petty’s mathematics (backed by the force of Cromwell’s army) was essential to transferring the vast majority of land from Catholics to Protestants. In the eighteenth century, Berkeley highlighted the logical flaws at the heart of the calculus to destroy the arguments of deists and freethinkers that threatened the established Church. In the nineteenth century, Hamilton was convinced that his international reputation in mathematics would prove to the English that the Irish were not intellectually inferior, thereby strengthening Ireland’s position within the Union. In the twentieth century, Eamon de Valera created the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies to bolster the reputation of the fledgling Republic and to keep Ireland’s top mathematicians from emigrating. Today, mathematics and data analytics have defined a vision of Ireland as a knowledge economy rooted in global networks of information. This book is about this history.
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