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Otto Neugebauer, François Thureau-Dangin et l’édition des textes mathématiques cunéiformes dans les années 1930

Abstract : Otto Neugebauer (1899-1990) and François Thureau-Dangin (1872-1944) are the main pioneers in deciphering mathematical texts written in cuneiform script on clay tablets from Mesopotamia. Inthe 1930s, they engaged in a sort of deciphering race which led to the characteristic state of the domain of the history of cuneiform mathematics : the availability of two different editions of the same texts made at the same time.In line with the historiographical research of the SAW project ("mathematical Sciences in the Ancient World", European Research Council advanced grant 2010, principal investigator: KarineChemla), this thesis aims to use the richness of this material in order to shed light on the ways in which the edition of cuneiform mathematical texts at that time shaped the field of study. The approach adopted here consists in concretely combining the work on the ancient sources while consciously taking into account the historiography of these same sources. The edition of a smallgroup of paleo-Babylonian mathematical texts called the “kibsu texts” is studied from three perspectives : material history of the texts, analysis of the attitude of the editors when confrontedwith what they consider as errors, analysis of their use of mathematical formulas in the commentaries. This part of the investigation interacts with the broader context of the career of thetwo main protagonists and their historical perspectives in the deciphering of the sourcesdocumenting the history of mathematics in Mesopotamia which are scrutinized in detail in a firstpart.The result is a detailed and contextualized picture of the process of mutual influence betweendeciphering a text and understanding its content, the so called hermeneutic circle, from thediscovery of the tablets in question until their publication in the reference books. In passing, a critical review of the practice consisting of restoring the order of magnitude to the numbers writtenin the typical sexagesimal place value notation studied in its historical relation with the decipherment of cuneiform metrologies strongly suggests the abandonment of such practice.
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Pierre Chaigneau. Otto Neugebauer, François Thureau-Dangin et l’édition des textes mathématiques cunéiformes dans les années 1930. Histoire, Philosophie et Sociologie des sciences. Université de Paris, 2019. Français. ⟨NNT : 2019UNIP7008⟩. ⟨tel-03450379⟩

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