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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Scientist Appreciation: Felix Klein


As some of you may have guessed by my post from earlier today, I have my suitcases and I am back in business. With so many famous scientists and mathematicians steeping Göttingen in history, I have decided it is time to ressurrect my Scientist Appreciation posts. Every time I find something named after a famous scientist or mathematician (and I have my camera with me), I will thus get a photograph and say a few things about the emminent fellow. Of course, I should therefore change the label perhaps to Mathematician Appreciation for fellows like Felix Klein, but I hope their memory will not be too tarnished if I place them under the label of 'Scientist' for the sake of reducing clutter on my sidebar (and for brand recognition...).

Felix Klein is actually someone who I mostly knew of thanks to my girlfriend. With her extensive interest in geometry and group theory, Felix Klein is a massively famous figure to her. A little bit of research on Wikipedia and he seems awfully impressive to me as well. Mathematically, he was exceptionally important in the founding of group theory and the relation of geometry to other areas of mathematics (I only have a vague understanding of the appropriate terms here, so to avoid wildly embarrassing my girlfriend and any other mathies who might be reading this, I will refrain from going into too much detail). What makes Felix Klein extra exceptional, though, is he was also exceedingly important as a facilitator of the scientific enterprise as a whole.

While serving as a young professor in Munich, he taught courses to Adolf Hurwitz, Carl Runge, and Max Planck (among others, but those three I have directly encountered in memorable ways within my own studies). After a brief stint in Leipzig, Klein moved to Göttingen where he worked to rebuild the city's prominence in the world of mathematics. To that end, he managed to fenagle Hilbert away from Königsberg, guide the mathematics journal Mathematische Annalen to become one of the best in the world, and begin allowing women to study in Göttingen. Perhaps even more widely impacting than his administrative and leadership roles in Göttingen itself, Klein also began to advocate for the adaption of calculus instruction in secondary schools, a practice gradually adopted in many countries even outside Germany.

So, whether you are a devoted mathematician or simply a dabbler like myself, you should take a moment to appreciate the endeavours of one Felix Klein. If you want more detail on the man, have a look at his Wikipedia article.

1 comments:

sarah said...

Yay! I'm pleased to see the Klein appreciation; I knew Gottingen would be good for you.