Abstract: I want in this talk to discuss some of the links between mathematics and informatics that can be observed through the ages. There is of course a blatant anachronism in speaking of informatics “through the ages”, as the word “informatics” itself was coined merely half a century ago. But still quite a few powerful ideas central to this relatively young science are rooted in mathematical practices from the past.
I will address these issues from a triple perspective. I will first use an algorithmic vantage point, stressing how mathematical methods developed in remote times can be seen as heralding some thoroughly modern visions. I will then offer an historical glimpse at a few machines or instruments designed to implement these methods, and finally conclude by examining briefly some of the links between informatics and mathematical logic, a mathematical field that in recent decades has been reinvigorated under the impetus of informatics.
I hope my talk will suggest how mathematics and informatics live in a kind of symbiosis: the latter, on the one hand, could not exist without the past and actual contribution of the former; but mathematics, on the other hand, is brought to renew itself, sometimes even from an epistemological standpoint, when facing the new challenges offered by informatics.
This talk is based in part on material developed in the context of a course on the history of mathematics for secondary school teachers.