Proposal: History of Science And Mathematics

When a proposal makes it about half way through the Commitment phase, the Community Team will start to evaluate the proposal to see if it is ready to move forward.

As part of that process, we have to decide what to call it. The title of the site is quite long, but we may have to live with that. But what about the URL?


We try to make the URLs as close as possible to the title as is reasonable. historyofscimath.stackexchange.com sounds… doable, but I was hoping for something better.



I think that an initialism might be the way to go here:


This has precedent at sites like dsp.stackexchange.com ("Digital Signal Processing"), gis.stackexchange.com (whatever "GIS" stands for...), ux.stackexchange.com ("User eXperience"), and ell.stackexchange.com ("English Language Learners"). In some of those cases (DSP, GIS, UX), the initialism sees widespread use, but in the case of ELL, that was a new coinage for ELL.SE, so I don't see anything terribly wrong about using a newly-coined initialism for the URL here, particularly given the absence of an existing widespread initialism.

I will also note that (American) university departments or programs about the history of science and related fields seem to often opt for an initialism or something like it (though not necessarily "HSM") in their URLs. From the first page of a Google search:


If you're open to the possibility of burning a few *.stackexchange.com URLs on redirects, you could pick hsm.stackexchange.com as the canonical URL of the site and then redirect, say, the top 3 other common initialisms used by academic departments about history of science to hsm.stackexchange.com.


Why not simply sciencehistory.stackexchange.com?

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    Does not include Math! That and the interaction between them is a large part of the proposal. – kaine May 29 '14 at 17:03
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    @kaine Mathematics is a science. Science includes theory as well as empiricism. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' May 29 '14 at 18:30
  • The point was just that it's shorter and memorable: a URL doesn't have to explain the scope of the site. For example "Programming puzzles and Code golf" url is just codegolf.stackexchange.com... It doesn't mean that programming puzzle is a strict subset of code golf, or that it is less important, just that codegolf is a more memorable and shorter name... – plannapus May 31 '14 at 14:01
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    The site title and URL needs at minimum to include "math", or "m" as in "hsm". I personally will not bend on this issue. The site proposal is "History of Science And Mathematics", and I am partial to the mathematics portion. To exclude "math" (or at least "m") from the url seems outrageous to me. One could debate this issue, but my mind is and will always be closed on this one point. – J. W. Perry Jun 2 '14 at 3:55
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    +1 Historically, mathematics was viewed as a science (specifically, a formal science). The redefinition of "science" to mean "empirical science" is a relatively modern invention which is basically irrelevant historically. Requiring that mathematics be included everywhere is (ironically) a rather uninformed revisionist position about the actual history of science and mathematics. It isn't as if the URL determines the scope of the site or needs to be fully inclusive, c.f. Movies.SE, Scifi.SE, Codegolf.SE, Anime.SE, Unix.SE, Boardgames.SE, etc. – Logan M Jun 18 '14 at 5:44
  • Understanding science as empirical science goes back to Bacon and his new method contra Aristotle's in early 17th century, so it is hardly "irrelevant" historically since most of modern mathematics was developed after that. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baconian_method – Conifold Oct 16 '14 at 0:26
  • @Conifold While Bacon explained the methods of empirical science, that should not be conflated with the redefinition of the unqualified term "science" from "a systematic organization of knowledge" to it's current understanding as (usually) referring solely to empirical science. To the extent that the terminology has shifted, that shift happened mostly in the 20th century. Well into the late 19th century, prominent mathematicians were still describing their work as "science", even with the understanding that it was not subject to falsification. – Logan M Oct 17 '14 at 1:44
  • @Logan M "During the early modern period in the West the words "science" and "philosophy of nature" were sometimes used interchangeably and not until the 17th century, natural philosophy (which is today called "natural science") was considered a separate branch of philosophy". It seems that science as a generic "body of knowledge" is even more of a modernism than "natural science". – Conifold Oct 17 '14 at 21:43
  • @Conifold While I'd rather not discuss this any further because I feel it's increasingly off-topic and irrelevant given that senshin has suggested an alternative which currently seems acceptable to most people, the use of "science" to mean knowledge generally dates back to the 12th century, while it became entangled with "natural philosophy" in the 17th and 18th centuries (see etymonline.com/index.php?term=science)... – Logan M Oct 17 '14 at 22:56
  • ...During the next few hundred years it seems that the two meanings competed in popularity with no clear winner. However, I am not aware of any mathematician during that period who definitively described their work as not science until late into the 19th century. To the best of my knowledge, this idea didn't take root in the mainstream mathematical and scientific communities until the 20th century, and as best I can tell, at any point prior to that, mathematics would have been implicitly understood to be included, or at least not explicitly excluded, by the use of the term "the sciences". – Logan M Oct 17 '14 at 22:56
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    Let's wait until the beta is up. – Conifold Oct 17 '14 at 23:30

The discipline is called history of science, so the site should be called historyofscience.stackexchange.com (although sciencehistory.stackexchange.com is shorter, nobody calls it that way).

The word science has several meanings, including one that is restricted to empirical sciences only (i.e. excluding mathematics). In the expression “history of science”, the sciences are not limited to natural sciences or to empirical sciences: mathematics is included.

The current title “history of science and mathematics” is redundant. Mathematicians are not going to feel excluded if the title is “history of science” — it's rather the opposite: “history of science and mathematics” makes it look like mathematics isn't a science. And it casts in doubt the inclusion of computer science, which hasn't really decided yet how much of itself is empirical and how much is theoretical. The title should be changed to “history of science”.

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    The math.SE site seems to disagree with you to some extent: math.stackexchange.com/questions/287701/… – kaine May 29 '14 at 18:44
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    So does wikipedia which defines it as "including both the natural sciences and social sciences". Math is neither a natural nor social science. Wikipedia obviously isn't a great reference but provides some guide as to how to broadly define a topic. – kaine May 29 '14 at 18:50
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    If your definition of science = "field of study", theology = "science of things divine" so is history of theology on topic? – Wandering Logic May 30 '14 at 11:54
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    Well, a lot of mathematicians feel that mathematics isn't a science, and that's no insult. On the one hand, "science" is sometimes applied quite broadly to apply to any systematic study (e.g., The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Political Science); on the other hand, you have the restriction to the empirical sciences. It seems odd to have a grouping that includes a whole bunch of empirical sciences plus mathematics. (Of course there are other views, but this answer suggests a uniformity of opinion among mathematicians that is very far from true. – Michael Weiss May 30 '14 at 16:05
  • @WanderingLogic Theology lacks falsifiability, which natural sciences achieve through experiment and mathematics through reasoning. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' May 30 '14 at 17:53
  • @MichaelWeiss The word “science” has several meanings. It's useless to argue about whether X is a science without first saying which meaning you want. By saying “science and mathematics”, you force a meaning where mathematics is not a science. As a computer scientist, it worries me because it might exclude computer science as well, which would be silly. As a man-in-the-street, it worries me because the more complex the title is, the more it invites quibbling (the very quibbling we're having here). – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' May 30 '14 at 17:56
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    @Gilles So you're suggesting that people interested in the history of math, who regard math as a science, would not participate in the proposed site because they felt insulted? This is outweighed (IMO) by the likelihood that someone interested in the history of math wouldn't gravitate to the site --- especially if they looked for stuff on the history of math via internet seach (the way I discovered SE in the first place). – Michael Weiss May 30 '14 at 18:28
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    @Gilles Also, by saying “science and mathematics” you don't "force a meaning", you just acknowledge the reality that math is often not grouped with the sciences, and so express your meaning more unamibiguously. Think inclusive-or, not exclusive-or. – Michael Weiss May 30 '14 at 18:33
  • @MichaelWeiss No, I don't see why mentioning math in the title would make people interested in math feel insulted. However, as a computer scientist, it makes me feel excluded (which is different from insulted, but also bad). I don't understand why someone interested in the history of math would not gravitate to a site called “history of science”. I don't remember hearing a mathematician say he wasn't doing science. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' May 30 '14 at 18:34
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    @Gilles When I went to grad school in math the 80s in the US, I didn't encounter a single student or professor who considered math a science. They would say they were doing math, not science. (Feynman's take on question pretty much summed up the prevailing viewpoint.) Attitudes may have changed somewhat over the years, and it's language-specific (see the post on this in the blog Renaissance Mathematicus, on the German "Wissenschaft"). Still, "science and math" clearly includes math, "science" does not. (cont. next comment). – Michael Weiss May 30 '14 at 18:57
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    @Gilles Would you really not post CS history questions to a site labelled "science and math" but would to one labelled just "science"? Does the "is math a science?" question have any bearing on whether CS is? – Michael Weiss May 30 '14 at 18:58
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    Ah, so you're talking about the attitude expressed so memorably in the xkcd cartoon "Purity". – Michael Weiss May 30 '14 at 19:32
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    You say "the discipline is called history of science", but there is also a discipline called history of mathematics. While we could fracture, maybe work up a history of science site and a history of mathematics site, the idea behind this proposal is that we might have a better chance of developing a successful site if we marry the two disciplines into one site. It is a natural marriage, and I expect the effect will be very synergistic. We will surely demonstrate respect for each other. – J. W. Perry Jun 3 '14 at 5:43
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    @J.W.Perry That's my point exactly: I'm arguing against fragmentation. History of biology, history of mathematics, history of sociology: it's all history of science. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Jun 3 '14 at 7:37
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    @Gilles This question is nothing more than a call for URL suggestions. If you are wanting to actually change the title of this site proposal, you would want to do that in a separate question. This would definitely be the wrong post for that sort of input. In general, we want to make the URL as close to the title as possible. Note that we have already completed the definition phase for this site. While new suggestions and ideas are surely welcome, we have, through a couple of months of fleshing out appropriate questions, defined the site. We worked out the title early in the definition stage. – J. W. Perry Jun 4 '14 at 1:10

What about histscimath.stackexchange.com?

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    Try to remember this and write it to URL bar in your browser. People not always uses links and bookmarks. Sometimes you have to write something. Ten years ago, when I was thinking about my company name, my good friend told me, that name of anything must be at least easy to be spoken through telephone. This goes to company names, domains, sitenames etc. Try to say histscimath through phone and tell your friend to repeat this or write it back to you... And it is not imporant, whether you'll talk that through phone or not. It is only a great measure for picking good names (easy to remember). – trejder Oct 16 '14 at 6:06

As a mathematics grad, I like mathscihistory.stackexchange.com. That would be confusing, given that the site name is "History of Science And Mathematics" though!

Obviously, we can't do what other lengthy SE sites have done, e.g. ELL, as abbreviations for science and mathematics will be highly ambiguous.

I think this answer for site URL is best, but would also suggest


It is 3 char + 3 char + history with the bonus of "mat" being read as "math" too.

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    See my above comment about speaking scimathistory through phone. – trejder Oct 16 '14 at 6:07

By popular demand, here is stemhistory.stackexchange.com as its own separate answer.


ideahistory.stackexchange.com ?


I guess I don't understand why the url is that important. People don't find sites by guessing urls these days: they search on keywords, or bookmark the ones they visit frequently.

Is something else at stake here?

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    It has to be called something; we can't leave it blank. So we're talking about it. I'm not sure how much "importance" you're seeing in the discussion beyond that. – Robert Cartaino Jun 1 '14 at 22:18

how about



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    I would upvote the second. Perhaps post it separatedly. – quid May 29 '14 at 13:36

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