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SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE  November 2003

SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE November 2003

Subject:

mathematician's article on Iraq

From:

Maurice Bazin <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Science for the People Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 27 Nov 2003 22:36:00 -0200

Content-Type:

multipart/alternative

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (86 lines) , text/enriched (102 lines)


Dear friends,

I wish to call your attention to "Iraq: the history of mathematics and 
the aftermath of war," by Eleanor Robson, the lead article in the 
latest issue of the Newsletter of the British Society for the History 
of Mathematics (BSHM Newsletter, vol. 49, Autumn 2003, pp. 1-9).† Dr. 
Robson has been a generous contributor to this list.

The narrative and the photos of this article contain Dr. Robson's 
"attempt to assess the damage to Iraq's mathematical and cultural 
heritage, based on the expert assessments and eyewitness reports" [p. 
2].† Because I believe the last page of Dr. Robson's article is 
especially worthy of the widest circulation (and not everyone on this 
list is a member of the BSHM), I ask your patience to consider it in 
its entirety here.

"At a conservative estimate, around a million books from Iraq's 
libraries, and many thousands of manuscripts and documents, have been 
burned or looted this year.† Almost all of Iraq's major museums and 
libraries are out of action, and will be for many years.† It will cost 
vast amounts of money, time, and expert labour to reverse the effects 
of two weeks of post-war chaos and thirteen years of sanctions.† 
Planning is only just getting underway.† There are simple things we can 
all do to help.

"1.† Do not, under any circumstances, buy cuneiform tablets or Arabic 
manuscripts you may see for sale; you run the risk of a hefty fine or 
imprisonment.† Since 14 June it has been illegal in the UK to handle 
any Iraqi antiquities that do not have an export license; and very few 
do.† If you do come across anything that you think might be an illicit 
Iraqi aritfact do not challenge the dealer.† Photograph it if you can; 
make notes on what you have seen, and and where and when, as soon as 
possible, and report it to the Metropolitan Police Art and Antiquities 
Team on 020 7230 2150.

"2.† To help the Iraq Museum's recovery write a cheque to the BSAI 
(British School of Archeology in Iraq) Iraq Fund, British Academy, 10 
Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AH.

"3.† To donate books to Iraq university and public libraries, contact 
Books for Baghdad: Ian REvie of Edinburgh University 
[log in to unmask] or Alan Taylor of the Sunday Herald 
[log in to unmask]† Please do not give outdated or decaying books 
that you might otherwise send to a charity shop; consider donating your 
own scholarly output, and/or persuading colleagues to do the same.† 
Department- or faculty-wide book donation campaigns can be very 
effective too.

"4.† Write or mail your MP to express your concern about 
British-controlled Basra, where around three quarters of the University 
Library's holdings and all of the Central Library's were destroyed by 
fire.† Enlist your MP to lobby the Department of Culture, Media, and 
sport (DCMS, minister Tessa Jowell) and the Department for 
International Development (DfID, minister Hilary Benn) for a concrete, 
budgeted renewal plan for Basra's academic and cultural life.

"5.† Teach your students some of the wonderful history of Iraqi 
mathematics and science!"

If I may be so bold, I would like to offer two more "things we can all 
do to help."

6.† If you are a member of the BSHM, make copies of Dr. Robson's 
article available to as wide an audience as you can --- colleagues, 
students, etc.† In Montgomery, Alabama, I am going to make sure that 
our city museum director and his staff each receive a copy.† Encourage 
Dr. Robson and others to write periodic follow-ups to keep those of us 
who are not experts up-to-date.

7.† Each of us on this list is a member of one or more major 
institutions, a college or university, the MAA and AMS, or other 
national and regional professional organization.† In addition to 
donating books and writing checks, I hope each of us in his or her own 
way can search for means to lead some of our institutions to offer 
partnerships and other appropriate sustained and substantial assistance 
to the academies, libraries, museums, and other centers in Iraq that 
are so important to the people there and to our heritage, mathematical 
and cultural.

Thank you, and special thanks to Eleanor Robson.

Maurice Bazin,  Florianůpolis,   Brasil
Tel: 55 48 237 3140
Fax: 55 48 338 2686 (may need oral warning; pode precisar avisar)

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