[OS X TeX] [OT] LaTeXing lecture notes

David Derbes loki at uchicago.edu
Sat May 31 17:03:22 CEST 2014

This is following on from the thread "Intrinsic tensors".

On May 31, 2014, at 8:38 AM, Alain Schremmer wrote:

> On May 31, 2014, at 2:27 AM, Michael Sharpe wrote:
>> Alain's query raises a point I think is very important. Those of us now in our advanced years were educated when it was not always easy to disseminate work which was incomplete or excursive, however original. Documents, sometimes handwritten, sometimes typed in pseudo-math mode,  survive in some cases in the form of "lecture notes" that are highly valued by experts, copied  only to their students, and therefore at risk of being lost to future generations of mathematicians outside the mainstream. I think those of our generation should do what they can to preserve those lecture notes by publishing them as pdf web documents with added commentaries and links to  later relevant work so that mathematical history may benefit from our soon-to-be extinct knowledge. In most cases, this will require a scan of the original plus annotations.
> And therein lies the difficulty. I once tried to scan my very first book---from the time we thought "small presses" were a godsend which they were but short-lived---and thought I would die of boredom. It was a bit the same as with running on a treadmill and I gave up the one as I had the other.
> Best regards
> --schremmer

To follow up on Michael's post, the sort of stuff he wants to happen is happening. Some years ago Daniel F. Styer went carefully through the old (and out of print) classic by Richard Feynman and Albert Hibbs, Quantum Mechanics and Path Integrals, and (I think) retyped it in LaTeX. It's now out in Dover. Michael Gottlieb did the same with the Feynman Lectures, which are now on line in their entirety at Caltech. I did this with Freeman Dyson's Cornell lectures on quantum electrodynamics, now up at the arXiv and published by World Scientific, and also, with the enormous help of my friend and co-conspirator Bob Jantzen of Villanova, the wonderful and eccentric The Einstein Theory of Relativity by Lillian Lieber. I'm working on another project with a bunch of people I'll keep quiet a little longer, but it's an attempt to provide a book from notes that the community ought to have. It, too, will go on line. Bob did incredible service to the math community by LaTeXing and posting The Oral History of the Mathematics Community at Princeton in the 1930s. Fabulous stuff. Don't go there unless you are willing to sacrifice several hours in compulsive reading. 

I can't say every university has these archives, but I know Princeton has copies of many, many lecture notes from people like Bargmann, Wigner, Wheeler, Peebles and many other geniuses who taught there. It would be wonderful if retired mathematicians and physicists took on, as a retirement hobby, the LaTeXing and posting of these notes. Very probably Dover or World Scientific would be interested in publishing them, though the important thing is to keep them from vanishing. Of course the first thing to do is to get the permission of the original writer of the notes, if he or she is still alive, or from their heirs and survivors if not. But assuming such permission is forthcoming, there is a lot to be gained. (An idle thought: Might Emmy Noether's Bryn Mawr notes be yellowing somewhere?) 

Anyway, if you're nearing retirement and looking for interesting and valuable volunteer work, I think you could do worse than follow Michael's suggestion. 

David Derbes
U of Chicago Laboratory Schools

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