Mathematicians Fleeing from Nazi Germany: Individual Fates and Global Impact

Princeton University Press
Free sample

The emigration of mathematicians from Europe during the Nazi era signaled an irrevocable and important historical shift for the international mathematics world. Mathematicians Fleeing from Nazi Germany is the first thoroughly documented account of this exodus. In this greatly expanded translation of the 1998 German edition, Reinhard Siegmund-Schultze describes the flight of more than 140 mathematicians, their reasons for leaving, the political and economic issues involved, the reception of these emigrants by various countries, and the emigrants' continuing contributions to mathematics. The influx of these brilliant thinkers to other nations profoundly reconfigured the mathematics world and vaulted the United States into a new leadership role in mathematics research.

Based on archival sources that have never been examined before, the book discusses the preeminent emigrant mathematicians of the period, including Emmy Noether, John von Neumann, Hermann Weyl, and many others. The author explores the mechanisms of the expulsion of mathematicians from Germany, the emigrants' acculturation to their new host countries, and the fates of those mathematicians forced to stay behind. The book reveals the alienation and solidarity of the emigrants, and investigates the global development of mathematics as a consequence of their radical migration.


An in-depth yet accessible look at mathematics both as a scientific enterprise and human endeavor, Mathematicians Fleeing from Nazi Germany provides a vivid picture of a critical chapter in the history of international science.

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About the author

Reinhard Siegmund-Schultze is professor of the history of mathematics at the University of Agder, Kristiansand, in Norway.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Jul 6, 2009
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Pages
504
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ISBN
9781400831401
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Science & Technology
History / Europe / Germany
Mathematics / History & Philosophy
Science / History
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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This is a unique type of book; at least, I have never encountered a book of this kind. The best description of it I can give is that it is a mystery novel, developing on three levels, and imbued with both educational and philosophical/moral issues. If this summary description does not help understanding the particular character and allure of the book, possibly a more detailed explanation will be found useful. One of the primary goals of the author is to interest readers—in particular, young mathematiciansorpossiblypre-mathematicians—inthefascinatingworldofelegant and easily understandable problems, for which no particular mathematical kno- edge is necessary, but which are very far from being easily solved. In fact, the prototype of such problems is the following: If each point of the plane is to be given a color, how many colors do we need if every two points at unit distance are to receive distinct colors? More than half a century ago it was established that the least number of colors needed for such a coloring is either 4, or 5, or 6 or 7. Well, which is it? Despite efforts by a legion of very bright people—many of whom developed whole branches of mathematics and solved problems that seemed much harder—not a single advance towards the answer has been made. This mystery, and scores of other similarly simple questions, form one level of mysteries explored. In doing this, the author presents a whole lot of attractive results in an engaging way, and with increasing level of depth.
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