My Academic Family Tree

Despite much of the negativity that seems to fill my various Twitter feeds1, I still find it an incredibly useful tool for scientific communication, community engagement, and social good. And from time to time, it’s extremely entertaining and nerdy.

Take yesterday, for example, when I was mentioned in the following thread by Brandon (one of my undergraduate students):

What began as a simple tweet, turned into a very entertaining trip through my mathematical family tree. The tree – which you can find below (thanks to code provided on the blog of Dr. Maëlle Salmon) – wasn’t exactly what Brandon was referring to when he asked about some neat folks in my mathematical family tree. That conversation was related to my Erdős number2.

Regardless, the code provided by Dr. Salmon allowed me to scrape the Mathematical Geneology Project at the Department of Mathematics, North Dakota State University. If you want to do the same, you’ll need to figure out your ID in the Mathematical Geneology Project’s database. You can do this by searching for your name. Once you find your page, copy the part of the URL that looks like this: id.php?id=207686, then paste it into the line of R code that reads me <- “id.php?id=207686”, replacing the ID that is listed with your own. For example, I updated the line of code to read me <- “id.php?id=157361”.

Once the code runs, you’ll have a nice looking tree similar to what I have below. However, be aware that scraping the website takes a bit of time – so perhaps get the code running and then go grab a coffee or a scotch while it does its thing. And once it’s finished, fully expect to lose a few hours geeking out learning how connected you are to some rather big names in the world of mathematics and statistics (such as Poisson, Lagrange, Bernoulli, Leibniz, Euler, Laplace, Fourier, Dirichlet, Lipschitz, Klein, Tukey, Jacobi, and Gauss).

My only problem with this particular exercise is that I now want to pretty up my tree so that I can get it printed as a poster for my office. Perhaps some colours to differentiate different branches of the tree? Perhaps some portraits to go with the nodes? Perhaps some dates, or other information about the people listed? So many ideas, so little time.

treeMy mathematical family tree

1 I manage several Twitter feeds: @DrDanielGillis, @thedangillis, @UofGComputing, @IdeasCongress, @GuelphHacks, @PSEERUofG, @MathStats_UofG, @Farm_2_Fork, @SeedFoodHub, and @eNukLabrador (to name a few)

2 My Erdős number is 3 – as you can see below. You can calculate your Erdos number here.

Screen Shot 2018-06-19 at 8.42.16 PM.png

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