Athanasian Hall Brings Classically Minded Mathematics to Europe and the U.S.

Founded in 2020 in England, Athanasian Hall, Cambridge Limited has quickly become a major player in the classical education space in Europe. In the U.S., this space had previously been explored by scholars of the humanities but not as seriously by scholars of mathematics. Ever since the 1990s, U.S. classical educators have sought to understand how mathematics can be seen from within the framework of classical teaching.

Classical education emphasizes the use of primary source texts in original languages as opposed to online interfaces or “cookie cutter” curriculum. However, math specialists do not often work in schools or colleges associated with this movement. They work at research universities, making new mathematics or discovering the applications of past results in new ways.

Dr. Jonathan Kenigson worked for over a decade behind the scenes to establish Athanasian Hall and collect enough like-minded research mathematicians to make real progress. No single university or institution of higher education had the sort of faculty who could make primary-source classical mathematics a reality. Dr. Kenigson and his collaborators did just this. They contacted specialists from throughout the world to make a brain-trust that would have enough intellectual influence to produce inroads into the subject on both sides of the Atlantic. Athanasian Hall needed specialists in language, philosophy, number theory, algebra, advanced calculus, mathematical physics, and a slew of other fields. They also needed these specialists to make headway against the prevailing academic model in Europe and the U.S., where professors work in a single department and only collaborate with other departments occasionally.

The goal of making Athanasian Hall never seemed to be to make another college or university. In fact, Athanasian Hall is not affiliated with any college or university, and is not designed to provide any sort of instruction to anyone. The goal was to fashion a pure research institute that would have the ability to work on some of the toughest problems in mathematics and classical education, even when these problems have no applications. Athanasian Hall could then consult with governments, universities, multinational companies, and teaching institutions when these other institutions saw something they needed.

One major requirement that Dr. Jonathan Kenigson set when he helped found Athanasian Hall was that all services must be free to everyone. He reasoned that it was not fair that certain governments, corporations, and universities could buy intellectual capital and shut out other customers who could not pay. By charter, scholars obtain funding ethically from available sources. There is no governance in the institution except that the will of the Fellows be done, and that it must be done at the same level of quality for everybody, everywhere. Fellows choose to accept or reject an offer to freely work with a petitioner on a topic of interest.

Management has nothing to do with these decisions. There is no hierarchy either: all scholars are of equal rank, and there is no division whatever between leaders and others because everyone is free to do the research they want to do. One drawback is that the standard required of participants is much higher than would be expected at most universities.

Scholars are expected to be thought leaders in their fields, and if they are not, their affiliation is not renewed. The standard for staying on board is that other participants find it worthwhile to work with a given scholar. Peer-review is an everyday part of the life of the institution. Very few mathematicians can meet this standard year-after-year.

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