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Jan von Plato

23.6.1951, Helsinki

M.Sc. 1975 (mathematics), University of Helsinki
PhD 1980 (theoretical philosophy), University of Helsinki

Professor of Philosophy (Swedish Chair) 2000–, University of Helsinki

Publications, research projects, and other scientific activity

Research themes:
Logic, epistemology, history of science

Photo: Jan von Plato
Written by Jan von Plato
Translated by Stella von Plato

Lonely road to a doctorate

I was born in Helsinki in 1951 and lived my childhood in the utopian garden city of Tapiola. From there I first attended the German School in city center and was later transferred into a Finnish co-educational school, one that happened to be right next to my home, together with my brother.

He had unnerved my parents by saying to my Finnish mother: “Mutti hei, nyt Janne schraibesi mun Rechnenheftiin!” (Something like "Hey Mutti, now Janne schraibed into my Rechnenheft!") That German I’d learnt as a child turned out to be an unforeseen advantage when 40 years later I had to read archaic German handwriting and even dig into the secrets of shorthand writing.

I started studying mathematics, philosophy, and some smaller topics in 1970. During the university’s crazy 1970’s it could happen that one with a bachelor's degree and barely over 20 years could get the job as a temporary part-time assistant, and so I started teaching in 1972.

hat is something I would not recommend to anyone. However, to my luck I had found a magnificent conceptual problem in the philosophy of probability and with it as my guiding star I finished my thesis in 1979, in the midst of other tasks and duties, without anyone’s guidance. Somehow I thought that one has to find the research problems on one’s own. Luckily a few foreign colleagues were understanding and helped me find an international scientific community to which I presented my results and thoughts.

With great expectations towards the world of science -- picture from the study book of Jan von Plato, 1. September 1970.
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