13 September 2012

I Am a Descendant of Leibniz, Academically

One fine day a few years ago, I decided to see who my academic ancestors are. This meant tracing one's advisor's advisor, and doing it over and over again. I then found out that my academic lineage can be traced all the way to Gottfried Leibniz, in the 1700s. I also found out that I am an academic descendant of Noam Chomsky.

So here's how it is.

I finished a dissertation entitled "Scene-Salience-Driven Effects in Discourse Processing" in 2012, in the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York. I was advised by Jean-Pierre Koenig.

He on the other hand finished a dissertation entitled "Lexical Underspecification and the Syntax/Semantics Interface" in 1994, in University of California at Berkeley, advised by George Lakoff.

He on the other hand finished a dissertation entitled "On the Nature of Syntactic Irregularity" in 1966, in Indiana University, advised by Noam Chomsky.

He on the other hand finished a dissertation entitled "Transformational Analysis" in 1955, in the University of Pennsylvania, advised by Zellig Harris.

He on the other hand finished a dissertation entitled "A Grammar of the Phoenician Language" in 1934, from the same university, advised by James A. Montgomery.

He on the other hand finished a dissertation entitled "Samaritans, the earliest Jewish sect: Their history, theology, and literature" in 1907, from the same university, advised by Hermann Hilprecht.

He on the other hand finished a dissertation entitled "Freibrief Nebukadnezar's I. Koenigs von Babylonien, c. 1130 v. Chr." in 1883, in the University of Leipzig, advised by Friedrich Delitzsch.

He on the other hand finished a dissertation entitled "Studien ueber indogermanisch-semitische Wurzelverwandtschaft" in 1873, from the same university, advised by Eberhard Schrader.

He on the other hand finished a dissertation entitled "De linguae Aethiopicae cum cognatis linguis comparatae indole universa" in 1860, in the University of Goettingen, advised by Heinrich Ewald.

He on the other hand finished a dissertation entitled "Die Komposition der Genesis kritisch untersucht" in 1823, from the same university, advised by Johann Gottfried Eichhorn.

He on the other hand finished a dissertation entitled "Geschichte des Ostindischen Handels vor Mohammed" in 1774, from the same university, advised by Johann David Michaelis.

He on the other hand finished a dissertation entitled "Dissertatio inauguralis, de Punctorum Hebraicorum Antiquitate" in 1760, in the University of Halle, advised by Siegmund J. Baumgarten.

He on the other hand finished a dissertation entitled "Disputatio theologica de efficacia S. Scripturae naturali et supernaturali" in 1742, from the same university, advised by Christian Wolff.

He on the other hand finished a dissertation entitled "Philosophia practica universalis, methodo mathematica conscripta" in 1703, in the University of Leipzig, advised by Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz.

He on the other hand finished a dissertation entitled "Specimen Quaestionum Philosophicarum ex Jure collectarum" in 1664, from the same university.

I don't know who Leibniz's adviser was.

Some things to notice: I find it interesting how the language used in academia evolved. People used to write dissertations in Latin, then somehow it shifted to German, and then only in the early 1900s did English become the language of the academia. It is also interesting that my academic lineage includes mathematicians, philosophers, Assyriologists, as well as linguists.

So there, that was a nerdy post, but it was rather interesting in my opinion.

(Fat Man, from my Museum of Modern Art Series)

4 comments:

  1. Hey Jeruen,

    I understand that there have been famous linguists throughout human history. I also understand that some of them got doctorates and formal degrees. What I don't get is if the success of those linguists was linked to their doctoral theses. In other words, are academicians respected for the thesis they write during their early years or are they respected for the work they do which may be entirely different than the thesis they wrote. Will your legacy be limited to your thesis or will it depend on the work you will be doing in the future (which may be something else)?

    What I am asking you is the following: Your thesis may be connected to the people you mentioned in the list above, but are your thoughts descending from the ideas and theories that those people were known for? Are you truly a descendant?

    Priyank

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    1. Priyank,

      I think you're asking a composite question here. Success (and fame) is not always tied to someone's dissertation. A dissertation, after all, in the big picture of things, is just one requirement, something that proves that you can do original research. So it is not necessarily the case that people become famous due to their thesis.

      Take Noam Chomsky for example. He is famous, in more ways than one. He is famous for his ideas in linguistics and in politics. I have read a few of his works, but his dissertation is not one of them. A dissertation, after all, will be more polished, and later will appear as a more polished work after peer review, and such. Chomsky's legacy spans way more than what his dissertation talked about.

      However, if you look at training, then I think you can say that my academic training descended from these folks. The academe is after all, a culture. When I get my own student to advise somewhere down the road, I would definitely look back at my experience as a student under the wing of my adviser. That's how one learns, anyway. My adviser had rather strict and steep standards, he even admitted that to me a few times, when I complained about why I thought some students were getting away with smaller things than me. So when I become an adviser myself, then I would more than likely have that same standards. In that sense, I think I am a descendant.

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  2. Hi! If I graduate with my current advisor, I will also trace my genealogy through Ewald. I noticed that you list Siegmund J. Baumgarten as Johann David Michaelis' advisor. Do you have a source for that? I ask because on the Mathematics Genealogy project's database, JD Michaelis' advisor is listed as Christian Benedict Michaelis. Siegmund doesn't show up anywhere.
    http://genealogy.math.ndsu.nodak.edu/id.php?id=145778

    Of course, that database is admittedly incomplete.

    I would also note that, according to that same database, the lineage from Ewald was slightly different:
    Ewald was advised by Gottlieb Jacob Planck and Heinrich Ludwig Planck.
    Heinrich Ludwig Planck was advised by Gottlieb Jacob Planck and Eichhorn.
    Gottlieb Jacob Plank was advised by Jeremias Friedrich Reuß, who is part of a branch that I haven't traced very far, so I don't know if it rejoins the main branch or does other interesting things.

    According to said database, we can trace Eichhorn back quite far, to the 1300s. One of the lines goes through Willebrord (Snel van Royen) Snellius (yes, of Snell's Law), who advised Jacobus Golius, who advised Rene Descartes (not an 'ancestor' of Eichhorn) and Hiob Ludolf (who was an 'ancestor' of Eichhorn).

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    1. Hi Miriam,

      If I remember correctly, when I did the research for this post, I just used Wikipedia articles. As you know, these are articles that can be edited by anyone, so take the information here with a grain of salt.

      Good luck!

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