David studies the histories of European mathematics and logic in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. His research tracks the changing place of mathematics in intellectual history with an emphasis on the social and cultural stakes of competing ideas about what mathematics is and why it matters.
His dissertation, “Writing the Rules of Reason: Notations in Mathematical Logic, 1854–1929,” tells the story of European scientists and philosophers coming to see formal logic as a fundamentally mathematical enterprise. He decenters the disembodied realm of ideas in which that story has usually been told, turning attention instead to the act of writing and the physical form that logical theory takes. Logical concepts became legible in the medium of written notation. During the years that logic became mathematical, systems of logical writing transformed no less dramatically than the ideas they expressed. The dissertation foregrounds the different practices of writing and reading entailed by each system, the communities developing and promoting those practices, and the larger, surrounding communities in which that intellectual work came to strike its practitioners as both possible and important. At each level, he seeks the cultural meanings that guided how and why specific actors embraced new ways of writing reason down.
David completed his general exams in May 2016 with a major field in Modern Science and Mathematics (Michael Gordin) and minor fields in Modern European Intellectual History (Anson Rabinbach) and Modern Europe (Philip Nord). In 2013 he received an MPhil in the History and Philosophy of Science, first class with distinction, from the University of Cambridge. He graduated summa cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania in 2012 with a B.A. in Mathematics and English.