Friedman, Michael L. (Author)

Archive for History of Exact Sciences

Volume: 74

Issue: 4

Pages: 281-312

Publication date: 2020

Language: English

Outside Links

As is well known, it was only in 1926 that a comprehensive mathematical theory of braids was published—that of Emil Artin. That said, braids had been researched mathematically before Artin’s treatment: Alexandre Theophile Vandermonde, Carl Friedrich Gauß and Peter Guthrie Tait had all attempted to introduce notations for braids. Nevertheless, it was only Artin’s approach that proved to be successful. Though the historical reasons for the success of Artin’s approach are known, a question arises as to whether other approaches to deal with braids existed, approaches that were developed after Artin’s article and were essentially different from his approach. The answer, as will be shown, is positive: Modesto Dedò developed in 1950 another notation for braids, though one, which was afterward forgotten or ignored. This raises a more general question: what was the role of Artin’s notation, or, respectively, Dedò’s, that enabled either the acceptance or the neglect of their theories? More philosophically, can notation be an epistemic technique, prompting new discoveries, or rather, can it also operate an as obstacle? The paper will analyze the method introduced by Dedò to notate braids, and also its history and implications. It aims to show that Dedò, in contrast to Artin, focused on factorizations of braids and the algebraic relations between the operations done on these factorizations. Dedò’s research was done against the background of Oscar Chisini’s research of algebraic curves on the one hand and of Artin’s successful notation of braids on the other hand. Taking this into account, the paper will in addition look into the epistemic role of notation, comparing Dedò’s work with Artin’s, as both presented different notations of braids and their deformations.

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