Monday, May 07, 2007

The inverse of the multiple personality

kw: musings, collective identity

While reading the biography of HSM Coxeter, reviewed in the following post with the title "He could make anyone love geometry", I learned of the collective mathematician named Nicholas Bourbaki. A dozen or so mathematicians, mostly French, under a juvenile oath to "retire" from participation at age fifty, have carried on a virtual career for some three generations. Largely inactive now, the Bourbaki group is primarily responsible for "The New Math" that has made math education so hateful to nearly anyone under eighty years old.

However, as a collective "person", this French abomination reminded me of the other Armand Hammer. Perhaps you know of an American entrepreneur of that name, who died in 1990. "The other" one is a collective person, named for the Arm and Hammer brand of baking soda. This Hammer "person", as narrated by Ben Hamper in his autobiography Rivethead, was a fiction under which several auto workers shared one job in the 1970s.

I wonder if other "viable" collective persons are active out there?

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