Citation for the 2005 ICMI Felix Klein Award to Professor Ubiratan D'Ambrosio
The second Felix Klein Medal of the International Commission on Mathematical Instruction (ICMI) is awarded to Professor Ubiratan D'Ambrosio
Ubiratan D'Ambrosio was born in 1932 in São Paulo, Brazil.
He was trained as a mathematician in Brazil and Italy and obtained his doctorate in science at the University of São Paulo in 1963.
Until 1972 he
spent most of his
time in the USA (Brown University, SUNY/Buffalo) where he
worked on Calculus of Variations and Measure Theory, while at the same time developing an increasing interest in interdisciplinary work and postgraduate programmes.
return to Brazil in 1972, when he
took up the post of director of the Institute of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Sciences at the State University of Campinas
(UNICAMP), Ubiratan D'Ambrosio's endeavour was to include new topics such as mathematical logic, mathematical modelling, bio-mathematics, computational linguistics and artificial intelligence as part of the Institute's research profile along with more classical areas.
contribution to include mathematics education.
In 1975 he
was involved in creating a Masters programme in the teaching of sciences and mathematics at the UNICAMP
During the 1970's, Ubiratan D'Ambrosio gradually moved into the field of mathematics education, partly as a result of his involvement in the activities of the Inter-American Committee on Mathematics Education (IACME/CIAEM), of which he was later to become Vice-President and President.
Ubiratan D'Ambrosio was elected Vice-President of ICMI for the term 1979-1983, in which capacity he helped found the African Mathematical Union and the African Society for the Advancement of Science.
term was over he
took up office as the chair of the International Study Group of the Relations
between History and Pedagogy of Mathematics.
As a result of his
interest in the social and cultural conditions for mathematics education, in particular as regards the nature of mathematical knowledge in different cultures at different times, Ubiratan D'Ambrosio
began to develop what is internationally his
best-known contribution to the field of mathematics education, the idea of ethnomathematics.
In 1978 he
wrote a paper on the mathematical knowledge and practices of native American cultures, took part in a Unesco conference in Khartoum, Sudan, on developing mathematics in third world countries, and participated in a conference "Mathematics and the Real World" at Roskilde University
Probably the first international presentation of his
ideas concerning ethnomathematics, including a sketch of its development into a programme of research and activity, was Ubiratan D'Ambrosio's plenary lecture "Socio-Cultural Bases for Mathematical Education" at ICME-5 in Adelaide in 1984.
Soon after came a series of publications that developed the initial ideas in greater detail, and in 1985 he
co-founded the International Study Group on Ethnomathematics.
He was the Vice-President of the study group 1988-1996.
Since its inception, ethnomathematics has continued to grow as a field of research and development and has exerted considerable influence on mathematics education in several continents, above all in Latin America and Africa.
Today, Ubiratan D'Ambrosio is a very active Emeritus Professor at UNICAMP while also teaching at several other universities in São Paulo in postgraduate programmes of mathematics education and the history of science.
He also continues do research in ethnomathematics and related areas.
belongs to a generation that helped to found the field of mathematics education.
contribution to research is essentially as a philosopher - in the classical broad sense of that word - of mathematics education reflecting on its role in a complex world characterised by unrest and by an uneven distribution of goods and privileges across regions, countries, and societies.
By focusing his
attention on developing cultures, Ubiratan D'Ambrosio
broadened our conception of mathematics education.
More than that, he
has helped to open the eyes of the mathematics education community to an understanding of how mathematical ideas are generated and how they evolved through the history of mankind.