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The only events worth noting in his material career are his installation at Toulouse at the age of 30 (14 May 1631), as commissioner of requests;

from Eric Temple Bell's Men of Mathematics

The sentence is about Fermat (A mathematician). Does material career mean "Non-Spiritual" , "Non-Mathematics" or "earthly" ?

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

To quote one of the many definitions for material from Chambers,

Relating to subject matter

We need the right context here. Fermat was a student of law and had a degree in civil law. But today the world does not remember him for his contributions to law. The material in the sentence pertains to the subject of law. The only notable event in his legal career was his becoming the commissioner of requests.

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This sounds right to me. I'm not familiar with OP's usage, but I'd guess material is by way of contrast with immaterial = not relevant. Fermat presumably did lots of things, but the only ones we remember and care about today are his contributions to mathematics. – FumbleFingers Sep 3 '13 at 16:18

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