JEWS IN MATHEMATICSEric Temple Bell's classicMen of Mathematicsdescribes the lives and work of the great pre-twentieth century mathematicians. The thirty-four biographical portraits contained in this book include those of four mathematicians of Jewish descent: Carl G. J. Jacobi, James Joseph Sylvester, Leopold Kronecker, and Georg Cantor*. In the twentieth century, the Jewish contribution to mathematics increased dramatically with the work of individuals such as Jacques Hadamard, Hermann Minkowski, Felix Hausdorff, Emmy Noether (widely considered to have been the greatest woman in the history of mathematics),John von Neumann, Vito Volterra, Norbert Wiener, Oscar Zariski, Emil Post, Alfred Tarski, Paul Erdös, Israel Gelfand,AndréWeil, Alexander Grothendieck*, and hundreds of others.

Jews have made major contributions to virtually all branches of mathematics and were especially prominent among the founders and pioneers of a number of these, includingset theory(Georg Cantor*, Abraham Fraenkel, and Felix Hausdorff),modern algebraic geometry(Guido Castelnuovo, Federigo Enriques, Oscar Zariski,AndréWeil, and Alexander Grothendieck*),functional analysis(Giulio Ascoli, Cesare Arzelŕ, Jacques Hadamard, Vito Volterra, Frigyes Riesz, Hans Hahn, Eduard Helly, Norbert Wiener, and John von Neumann),theory of operator algebras(John von Neumann, Israel Gelfand, Mark Naimark, I. E. Segal, and Irving Kaplansky),integral equations theory(Vito Volterra), andstochastic process theory(Albert Einstein, Paul Lévy, Norbert Wiener, and Joseph Doob).

A number of the most powerful mathematical methods employed in scientific, engineering, and/or economic applications were invented, or co-invented, by Jews, including thefinite element method(Boris Galerkin and Richard Courant), theMonte Carlo method(Stanislaw Ulam and John von Neumann),linear programming(Leonid Kantorovich, George B. Dantzig, and John von Neumann), andgame theory(John von Neumann). Work in the latter two fields has garnered no fewer than a dozen Nobel Prizes in economics.

The relative magnitude of the Jewish contribution to mathematics (at least to modern mathematics) can be estimated from the Jewish representation among the recipients of the five most prestigiousawardsin the field.These are listed^{1}below, with the awards appearing in rough order of importance. Another indicator is the nearly 50% Jewish makeup of the combined membership of the divisions of mathematics and applied mathematical sciences of the US National Academy of Sciences.

Jewish MathematiciansJewish Fields Medalists (25% of recipients)Jewish Recipients of the Wolf Prize in Mathematics (38% of recipients)Jewish Recipients of the Leroy P. Steele Prize for Lifetime Achievement (53% of recipients)Jewish Recipients of the Bôcher Memorial Prize (42% of recipients)Jewish Recipients of the Frank Nelson Cole Prizes in Algebra and Number Theory (41% of recipients)NOTES

1. The designation of the five awards as being the most prestigious, and their rough order of importance, is based on information contained in the entry "Mathematical Prizes" on p. 1863 of theCRC Concise Encyclopedia of Mathematics(2nd Edition), by Eric W. Weisstein (Chapman & Hall/CRC, Boca Raton, FL, 2003). These prizes do not constitute completely satisfactory indices, however. The Fields Medal, known informally as the "Nobel Prize in Mathematics," is awarded only to individuals who are forty years of age or younger. The Wolf Prize is an international, lifetime achievement award, but has been in existence only since 1978. It is awarded by the Wolf Foundation in Israel. The last three prizes appear to be awarded primarily to American mathematicians.

* See footnotes on the Jewish backgrounds of Cantor and Grothendieck in the list ofJewish Mathematicians.

QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS: CONTACT US

JINFO HOME

Copyright © 2003-2019 JINFO.ORG. All rights reserved.

Reproduction of any part of this website

without the express, prior written permission of JINFO.ORG is prohibited.