Ever since I've read "A family tree of tropical meteorology's academic community and its proposed expansion" by Robert Hart and Joshua Cossuth (Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., December 2013) I was curious to construct my own academic genealogy - a family tree of scientists were the parents are academic supervisors - and to document the academic history of meteorology in Romania. As September this year, the academic genealogy developed by Hart and Cossuth (now expanded to all of meteorology) contained 3157 entries. Unfortunately, I could not use any of these entries to construct my academic genealogy since I knew only my academic parent and grandparent, both from University of Bucharest (Romania).  

First, I have used the Romanian Physicists Database to extend my academic lineage to Constantin Miculescu, who for his PhD dissertation had developed an original method for accurately measuring the mechanical equivalent of heat. Miculescu's PhD advisor was Gabriel Lippmann, a France-Luxembourgish physicist, and Nobel laureate in physics for his method of reproducing colours photographically. Second, since Hermann von Helmholtz and Gustav Kirchhoff were both Lippmann's advisers, I have used data from Mathematics Genealogy Project to extend my academic genealogy to the 1300's.  For each of entries in academic tree (Fig. 1) I have extracted: the advisor(s) name, the year of the degree and the institution grating that degree. Further, each entry was classified according to the general subject of the PhD (e.g., astronomy, mathematics, physics, theology).  

Among my academic ancestors are:

  • Hermann von Helmholtz, a German physicist who made fundamental contribution to physiology, optics, electrodynamics, mathematics and meteorology;
  • Gustav Kirchhoff, a German physicist who contributed to the understanding of electrical circuits, spectroscopy and the emission of black-body radiation;
  • Carl Gustav Jacob Jacobi, a German mathematician who made fundamental contributions to dynamics, differential equations and number theory
  • Georg Lichtenberg, a German scientist who studied the strange tree-like patterns now called Lichtenberg figures (lightning is a naturally occurring three dimensional Lichtenberg figure) [this is the only connexion with my PhD, in which I studied cloud-to-ground lightnings];
  • Andreas Vesalius (Andries van Wesel), a Belgian anatomist often referenced as the father of modern human anatomy
  • Marsilio Ficino, an Italian scholar and philosopher, and a reviver of the Neoplatonism [during my first year at the University of Bucharest  I had a passion for Ficino's works via Ioan Petru Culianu];
  • Luca Pacioli, an Italian mathematician and Franciscan friar, referred to as the father of bookkeeping (or double-bookkeeping)
  • NIcolaus Copernicus, a Polish mathematician and astronomer.

Another aspect of the academic genealogy that was interesting to me, was the migration of the academics between countries. For this I have used a circular visualization, build using Circos. In Figure 2, countries (represented in different colours) are interconnected by ribbons proportional in width with the number of academics travelling for studies from one country to another. Figure 2 shows that the academic descendants tend to stay in the same country as their academic ancestors (e.g., Germany, Italy, France) and only few academics studied abroad (e.g., Spain, Romania).

Figure 2. The migration of academics (click on the image to explore the details).

Figure 2. The migration of academics (click on the image to explore the details).

Among those academics who moved to another country to obtain their PhD was Constantin Miculescu, who studies in France at the University of Paris and then return to Romania where he organized the laboratory of molecular physics, acoustics and optics at the University of Bucharest. Nicolae Bărbulescu studied at the University of Bucharest with Miculescu and obtained his PhD in 1929. Bărbulescu  was the PhD advisor of Constantin Plăviţu who received his PhD in 1971 from the University of Bucharest with a dissertation on theoretical aspects of the physics of semiconductors. My graduate advisor was Prof. Sabina Ștefan who studied with Plăviţu and received a PhD from the University of Bucharest in 1993 with a dissertation on the physics of evaporation and condensation processes in atmosphere. I received my PhD from the University of Bucharest in 2010 with a dissertation on atmospheric electricity, and in the same year I moved to the University of Manchester (United Kingdom) for my postdoc with Prof. David M. Schultz and Prof. Geraint Vaughan

[update 17 July 2015] I was curious to see the changes in the PhD topics across centuries based on the 169 entries in the above academic genealogy and this is the result, showing the changes from Theology to Meteorology (Fig. 3). 

Figure 3. Changes in PhD topics across centuries.

AuthorBogdan Antonescu