Cesare Burali-Forti writes to Bertrand Russell

The International Congress of Mathematicians was held in Cambridge, England in August 1912. Bertrand Russell organised the Philosophical Section of the Congress and had written to Cesare Burali-Forti in Turin asking him to submit a paper to that section of the Congress. Burali-Forti replied to Russell, writing from Turin on 22 March 1912. His letter, which was written in French, is interesting in several different respects and we present below an English version of the letter:

Dear Sir and Colleague,

I am very honoured by your request that I should sent a communication to the Philosophical Section at the Congress at Cambridge. I have long since abandoned the mathematical study of philosophy to give myself entirely to the new topic of vector calculus, which in a short period of time, has expanded far more than I dared hope. Previous studies have logic summers have greatly helped me establish the vector notation. Some manual for the logical method that formed the basis of new notation, is found in the notes of the 1st volume of the new publication 'Analyse vectorielle générale', a publication I will make sure is ready before the congress. (In collaboration with Marcolongo). Do you believe that a communication on the logical-formal laws of a general notation system would be interesting to delegates in the Philosophical Section? If you believe it will, I can promise you a communication to which I will, in a little while, give you the exact title. It will not have the importance that you would like and that I wish it would have; but it will have the sole merit of showing how both simple and precise is the notation of your great Hamilton, of whom I am ardent admirer. I must warn you that I almost certainly will not be able to attend the Congress, because in August I will still have lessons to the Military Academy due to accelerated courses.

Please accept my thanks and best regards with the assurance of my highest esteem.

Cesare Burali-Forti.


JOC/EFR January 2015

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