[FOM] Question on an old Paper in Set Theory_

Alasdair Urquhart urquhart at cs.toronto.edu
Mon Oct 25 11:10:01 EDT 2010

Philip Jourdain died in 1919 of Friedreich's ataxia.
He had become obsessed with the idea that he could
prove the axiom of choice from the remaining axioms
of set theory.  Mittag-Leffler apparently had a liking for
Jourdain, and went ahead with publication, even knowing
the paper to be almost certainly in error.  Clearly,
though, he didn't want to open the floodgates to
endless fallacious "proofs" of the axiom of choice.

Details of the whole sad story can be found in the
collection of letters edited by Ivor Grattan-Guinness,
"Dear Russell, Dear Jourdain."

> Jourdain, P. 'A proof that every aggregate can be well-ordered.'
> Acta Math vol 43, No.1 Dec 1922, 239--261
> http://www.springerlink.com/content/cq874822k08946v5/fulltext.pdf
> (downloadable)
> What is the meaning of this comment?
> "The undersigned does not accept the principal view on which is based the
> above paper of the regretted, highly esteemed mathematician Philip B.
> Jourdain, which paper seems to be the last one written by him. But it contains
> so many new points of view that I have thought I would do the mathematical
> Public a service by publishing it. At the same time, however, I wish to point
> out that this journal will not to any further extent be at the disposal for
> papers of the same kind.
> G. Mittag-Leffler."

More information about the FOM mailing list