Tuesday, December 26, 2023

The Hidden Veblen

When we formed the Friends of Herrontown Woods in 2013, the nature preserve the Veblen's had donated 56 years prior for public use had become overgrown, their house and cottage boarded up. The same could be said for Oswald's legacy, which was nowhere to be found in the halls of Fuld Hall at the Institute for Advanced Study. There are many examples of Oswald Veblen--his influence and sometimes his very existence--going unmentioned. Here, from the annals of conspicuous omissions, are a couple examples, found recently while researching how Einstein ended up living in Princeton for the last two decades of his life. 

The wikipedia page for the Institute for Advanced Study makes clear Veblen's profound influence:

The eminent topologist Oswald Veblen at Princeton University, who had long been trying to found a high-level research institute in mathematics, urged Flexner to locate the new institute near Princeton where it would be close to an existing center of learning and a world-class library. In 1932 Veblen resigned from Princeton and became the first professor in the new Institute for Advanced Study. He selected most of the original faculty and also helped the institute acquire land in Princeton for both the original facility and future expansion.

But as of this writing, in December, 2023, no mention of Veblen can be found in Einstein's wikipedia entry, an omission that becomes all the more conspicuous when he is excluded from the list of initial faculty members:

Another example of the "hidden Veblens" is the wikipedia page for Owen Willans Richardson, the Nobel Prize-winning brother-in-law of Oswald. The entry mentions one of Owen's sisters, but not Elizabeth and Oswald.

This entry I was able to fix. Einstein's wikipedia page has some protections that may make it harder to edit.

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