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Cultivating Mathematics in an International Space: Roles of Gösta Mittag-Leffler in the Development and Internationalization of Mathematics in Sweden and Beyond, 1880-1920

This thesis aims to investigate several areas of mathematical activity undertaken by the Swedish mathematician Gösta Mittag-Leffler (1846-1927). These not only markedly impacted the development of mathematics in Stockholm, where they were centred, but transformed, by virtue of their roots in both nationalist and internationalist movements, the landscape of mathematics across Scandinavia and Europe more broadly. These activities are Mittag-Leffler's role in cultivating research activity from his students at Stockholms Högskola as the first professor of mathematics there (1881-1911); his establishment (1882) and development of Acta Mathematica, an "international" journal that could bring Sweden onto the scene as an arbiter of mathematical talent and establish the nation as a major locus of mathematical activity; and his attempts to establish a broader Scandinavian mathematical community through the foundation of the Scandinavian Congress of Mathematicians (1909) according to a belief that cultural solidarity would both enrich each country involved and afford a united group more clout than could be gained by each of the small nations alone. By analyzing Mittag-Leffler's strategies and tactics in these connections, and by carefully considering exactly what he sought to achieve and how, this thesis aims to shed new light on the ways in which an ambitious man could seize opportunities presented by the precise infrastructural, cultural, social, and political configuration of mathematics in Sweden and Europe more broadly during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, not only to influence the development of mathematics in his own country but also to alter the image of the country from one of a peripheral player to one that was accepted among the major mathematical power as serious and important. Two central features of this investigation which frame several discussions are Mittag-Leffler’s own ideas concerning what constituted a "contribution" to the development of mathematics, and a discussion of the important attributes of what I describe as the "international space" of mathematics which emerged during this period.