Kim Leslie Plofker (born November 25, 1964) is an American historian of mathematics, specializing in Indian mathematics.
Education and career
Plofker received her bachelor's degree in mathematics from Haverford College. She received her Ph.D. in 1995 while studying with adviser David Pingree (Mathematical Approximation by Transformation of Sine Functions in Medieval Sanskrit Astronomical Texts) from Brown University, where she conducted research and then later was a guest professor.
In the late 1990s she was Technical Director of the American Committee for South Asian Manuscripts of the American Oriental Society, where she was also concerned with the development of programs for the text comparison. From 2000 to 2004 she was at the Dibner Institute for the History of Science and Technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. During 2004 and 2005 she was a visiting professor in Utrecht and at the same time Fellow of the International Institute for Asian Studies in Leiden. She is currently an assistant professor at Union College in Schenectady.
Plofker deals with the history of Indian mathematics, the topic of her 2008 book Mathematics in India, which has quickly established itself as a standard work. She is particularly interested in the exchange of mathematics and astronomy between India and Islam in the Middle Ages and generally in the exact sciences between Europe and Asia from antiquity to the 20th Century.
According to David Mumford, besides her book Mathematics in India, "there is only one other survey, Datta and Singh’s 1938 History of Hindu Mathematics...supplemented by the equally hard to find Geometry in Ancient and Medieval India by Sarasvati Amma (1979)", where, "one can get an overview of most topics" in Indian mathematics.
In 2010 she gave a plenary lecture at the International Congress of Mathematicians, Hyderabad (Indian rules, Yavana rules: foreign identity and the transmission of mathematics). In 2011, she was awarded the Brouwer Medal of the Royal Dutch Mathematical Society.