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David Berlinski

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David Berlinski
Born1942 (age 81–82)
New York City, U.S.
EducationColumbia University (BA)
Princeton University (PhD)
Known forA Tour of the Calculus (1995)
SpouseToby Saks
Scientific career
FieldsSystems analysis
Analytical philosophy
InstitutionsStanford University
Thesis The Well-tempered Wittgenstein  (1968)

David Berlinski (born 1942) is an American mathematician[1] and philosopher. He has written books about mathematics and the history of science as well as fiction. An opponent of evolution, he is a senior fellow of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, an organization which promotes the pseudoscientic idea of intelligent design. Berlinski professes to be a skeptic about evolution, but he disavows belief in intelligent design.[2][3]

Early life and education

David Berlinski was born in the United States in 1942 to German-born Jewish refugees who had emigrated to New York City in order to flee from France, where the Vichy government was collaborating with Nazi Germany. His father was composer Herman Berlinski and his mother was musician Sina Berlinski (née Goldfein), who was a pianist, piano teacher and voice coach. Both of his parents were born and raised in Leipzig, where they studied at the University of Music and Theatre Leipzig before escaping to Paris, where they married and pursued further studies. German was David Berlinski's first spoken language.[4][5][6]

Berlinski earned his Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) from Columbia University and a Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton University.[7]

Academic career

After obtaining his Ph.D., Berlinski was a research assistant in the Department of Biology at Columbia University.[8] He has taught philosophy, mathematics and English at Stanford University, Rutgers, the City University of New York and the Université de Paris. He was a research fellow at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Austria and the Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques (IHES) in France.[citation needed]


Mathematics and biology

Berlinski has written works on systems analysis,[9] the history of differential topology, analytic philosophy, and the philosophy of mathematics. Berlinski has authored books for the general public on mathematics and the history of mathematics. These include A Tour of the Calculus (1995) on calculus, The Advent of the Algorithm (2000) on algorithms, Newton's Gift (2000) on Isaac Newton, and Infinite Ascent: A Short History of Mathematics (2005). Another book, The Secrets of the Vaulted Sky (2003), aimed to redeem astrology as "rationalistic"; Publishers Weekly described the book as offering "self-consciously literary vignettes ... ostentatious erudition and metaphysical pseudo-profundities".[10] In Black Mischief (1988), Berlinski wrote "Our paper became a monograph. When we had completed the details, we rewrote everything so that no one could tell how we came upon our ideas or why. This is the standard in mathematics."[11]

Berlinski's books have received mixed reviews. Newton's Gift, The King of Infinite Space and The Advent of the Algorithm were criticized on MathSciNet for containing historical and mathematical inaccuracies.[12][13][14] The Mathematical Association of America review of A Tour of the Calculus by Fernando Q. Gouvêa recommended that professors have students read the book to appreciate the overarching historical and philosophical picture of calculus.[15] Journalist Ron Rosenbaum described the book in The Observer as "an eloquent and elegant tribute to the beauty and power of mathematics".[4] Ad Meskins, writing in The Mathematical Gazette, criticized it for inaccuracy and lack of clarity: "I haven't learned anything from [Berlinski's] book except that the novel of mathematics is best written in another style."[16] A review in the Notices of the AMS found that Berlinski's metaphor-heavy prose made his "tour" of calculus like a trip along the Amazon River, isolated in an air-conditioned boat with tour guides who are "chatty and slightly manic, willing to invent a bit when certain knowledge runs out."[17]


Berlinski, along with fellow Discovery Institute associates Michael Behe and William A. Dembski, tutored Ann Coulter on science and evolution for her book Godless: The Church of Liberalism (2006).[18]

Berlinski was a longtime friend of Marcel-Paul Schützenberger (1920–1996), with whom he collaborated on an unfinished and unpublished mathematically based manuscript that he described as being "devoted to the Darwinian theory of evolution".[19] Berlinski dedicated The Advent of the Algorithm to Schützenberger.


He is the author of several detective novels featuring private investigator Aaron Asherfeld: A Clean Sweep (1993), Less Than Meets the Eye (1994) and The Body Shop (1996), and a number of shorter works of fiction and non-fiction.

Opposition to evolution

An opponent of biological evolution, Berlinski is a senior fellow of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, a Seattle-based think tank that is a hub of the pseudoscientific intelligent design movement. Berlinski shares the movement's rejection of the evidence for evolution, but he disavows belief in intelligent design. He describes his relationship with the idea of intelligent design as "warm but distant. It's the same attitude that I display in public toward my ex-wives."[2] According to Daniel Engber, "Unlike his colleagues at the Discovery Institute ... Berlinski refuses to theorize about the origin of life."[2]

Personal life

Berlinski's daughter Claire Berlinski is a journalist and his son Mischa Berlinski is a writer.[20][21] He was married to the cellist Toby Saks.[citation needed]


Non-fiction books

Fiction books

Articles in peer-reviewed journals

Articles in journals and newspapers


  1. ^ Johnson, George (May 21, 2000). "Software Etc". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved June 26, 2024.
  2. ^ a b c Engber, Daniel (April 15, 2008). "A Crank's Progress: David Berlinski". Slate. The Paranoid Style in American Science. Archived from the original on April 20, 2008. Retrieved May 27, 2014.
  3. ^ Brauer, Matthew J.; Forrest, Barbara; Gey, Steven G. (2005). "Is It Science Yet?: Intelligent Design Creationism and the Constitution". Washington University Law Review. 83 (1).
  4. ^ a b Rosenbaum, Ron (June 8, 1998). "Is the Big Bang Just a Big Hoax? David Berlinski Challenges Everyone". The Observer. Retrieved June 26, 2024.
  5. ^ Berlinski 1968
  6. ^ Columbia College (Columbia University). Office of Alumni Affairs and Development; Columbia College (Columbia University) (1991–1992). Columbia College today. Columbia University Libraries. New York, N.Y. : Columbia College, Office of Alumni Affairs and Development.
  7. ^ "David Berlinski". Penguin Random House. Retrieved June 26, 2024.
  8. ^ Berlinski 1972
  9. ^ Cartwright, T. J. (1979). "Review of On Systems Analysis: An Essay concerning the Limitation of Some Mathematical Methods in the Social, Political, and Biological Sciences". Computers and the Humanities. 13 (4): 326–327. ISSN 0010-4817. JSTOR 30207292.
  10. ^ "The Secrets of the Vaulted Sky: Astrology and the Art of Prediction". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved December 5, 2020.
  11. ^ Berlinski 1988, p. 167
  12. ^ MR1815707 (subscription required).
  13. ^ MR3014396 (subscription required).
  14. ^ Philosopher Wilfried Sieg pointed to problems ranging "from tedious discussions of logical calculi to incorrect formulations of the conversion rules for the λ-calculus, from an unsatisfactory definition of primitive recursive functions to the claim that Gödel already in 1931 gave "for the first time" a precise mathematical description of the notion of an algorithm. These are just examples where important technical material is not properly "under control" and where significant historical matters are not accurately presented." MR1766416 (subscription required).
  15. ^ Gouvêa, Fernando Q. (January 1, 1996). "A Tour of the Calculus". Mathematical Association of America (Book review). Washington, D.C.: Mathematical Association of America. Retrieved January 17, 2014.
  16. ^ Meskens, Ad (1996). "Review of A Tour of the Calculus". The Mathematical Gazette. 80 (489): 624–625. doi:10.2307/3618551. ISSN 0025-5572. JSTOR 3618551. S2CID 125487095.
  17. ^ Zorn, Paul (December 1996). "Book Review: A Tour of the Calculus" (PDF). Notices of the AMS. 43 (12): 1520–1521.
  18. ^ Coulter 2007, p. 319: "I couldn't have written about evolution without the generous tutoring of Michael Behe, David Berlinski, and William Dembski, all of whom are fabulous at translating complex ideas, unlike liberal arts types, who constantly force me to the dictionary to relearn the meaning of quotidian."
  19. ^ Wilf, Herbert S. (1996). "Marcel-Paul Schützenberger (1920–1996)". Electronic Journal of Combinatorics. 3 (1). ISSN 1077-8926. Retrieved January 17, 2014. Synopsis: "A memorial page for Marcel-Paul Schützenberger, with contributions from Herbert Wilf, Dominique Foata, David Berlinski, Dominique Perrin, Richard Askey and Moshé Flato."
  20. ^ "Mathematical Challenges to Darwin's Theory of Evolution – YouTube". Archived from the original on December 12, 2021. Retrieved July 28, 2020 – via YouTube.
  21. ^ "Christopher Hitchens vs. David Berlinski | Does Atheism Poison Everything? Debate – YouTube". Retrieved July 28, 2020 – via YouTube.