Person: Holmboe, Bernt Michael
Bernt Holmboe was a Norwegian mathematician best known as the teacher of Niels Henrik Abel.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- The boys were, starting from the eldest, Otto (1786-1858), Hans (1787-1844), Bernt Michael, Christopher Andreas (1796-1882), Henrik Ancher (1798-1856) and Hans Peder (1804-1841).
- All teaching had been in Latin but a few years before Holmboe studied there major changes had taken place: teaching was in Norwegian and specialist subject teachers were employed.
- Only after Holmboe's death did the university move into its own buildings (in 1852).
- When Holmboe began his studies there he was one of only seventeen students, taught by six lecturers.
- Holmboe was the leader of the students who were strongly opposed to Swedish troops in the country in the short fourteen-day military campaign.
- In 1815 Holmboe was appointed as assistant to the astronomer Christopher Hansteen at Christiania.
- He needed a good mathematician to assist him with his mathematical calculations and Holmboe certainly filled this role.
- In 1818 Holmboe became a teacher at the Cathedral School of Christiania.
- In the midst of the critical situation in which the School found itself right before Christmas, 1817, Rector Rosted was forced to hire two more of his former bright students: Bernt Michael Holmboe and Johan Aubert.
- It was the twenty-three year old Holmboe who now succeeded Bader in the teaching of mathematics.
- Jacob Rosted first offered the mathematics teaching position to Christopher Andreas Holmboe who was trained in the subject but by this time he had decided to make a career in oriental languages so turned down the offer.
- Before Holmboe undertook anything, he therefore got the students to repeat in words what the mathematical statement expressed; and vice versa: when the pupil heard a proposition expressed in words, he had to learn to write it down in mathematical notation.
- Holmboe stressed that the teacher had to prepare the foundations by which the beginner could easily learn without too great an effort, by not moving forward too quickly, not working at too abstract a level and going lightly over the most difficult propositions until everything contained therein had been learned.
- It is interesting that Holmboe first wrote "the world's greatest mathematician", then replaced it with the more modest "one of the great mathematicians".
- It is also interesting to note that Holmboe was fully aware of Abel's health problems at this time.
- The relation between Holmboe and Abel went well beyond one of teacher-pupil.
- He was invited to the Holmboe home in Eidsberg on a number of occasions, in particular spending a very happy time there at Christmas 1821.
- Holmboe published the first volume of Laerebog i Mathematiken Ⓣ(Textbook of mathematics) in 1825.
- These textbooks were based on Holmboe's highly successful teaching methods described above and were very successful being reprinted in different forms.
- When the first of these texts appeared, Holmboe wrote a review for the newspaper Morgenbladet in which he advised schools not to use Hansteen's books; strong words to put in a review of work by a colleague.
- It is worth recording that Holmboe's books have proved much more successful than those of Hansteen.
- In 1826 Holmboe accepted a position as lecturer at the University of Christiania, a move which some have criticised since this might have been a possible post for Abel.
- They considered that there were two men well-qualified for the position, Head Teacher B M Holmboe, and Student N H Abel.
- On Holmboe, the report stated that for many years now he had "exhibited remarkable competence" and showed an "extensive and well-founded knowledge of mathematics." On Abel, it acknowledged his "rare talent for mathematics and his great future in this science," but not was also taken of the fact that at this moment he had begun a lengthy journey abroad, that he could not easily be called back without harm, and that ...
- From 1826 to 1850 Holmboe also lectured at the military academy in Christiania.
- During the years 1828-30 Holmboe lectured on astronomy since Hansteen was absent on a geomagnetic expedition to Siberia.
- Holmboe wanted his obituary to show Abel's incomparable gifts and contributions to mathematics and the admiration that this inspired in the great wide world.
- During Abel's grand tour it was Holmboe who most frequently received letters.
- One would have thought that Holmboe was the person most capable of explaining who Niels Henrik really was.
- In light of this attitude, Holmboe's rather bloodless obituary would not be surprising had it not been for the reactions of other Abel friends.
- Holmboe, at the request of the Norwegian government, also edited Abel's complete works which appeared as Oeuvres complètes de N H Abel, mathématicien, avec des notes et développements Ⓣ(Complete Works of N H Abel, mathematician, with notes and developments) (Christiania, 1839).
- Holmboe published Stereometrie Ⓣ(Stereometry) in 1833, Plan og sfaerisk Trigonometrie Ⓣ(Plane and spherical trigonometry) in 1834, and an advanced calculus book Laerebog i den höiere mathematik Ⓣ(Textbook of higher mathematics) in 1849.
- In the later part of his career, Holmboe used his mathematical talents in the insurance industry.
Born 23 March 1795, Vang, Valdres, Oppland, Norway. Died 28 March 1850, Christiania (now Oslo), Norway.
View full biography at MacTutor
Tags relevant for this person:
Astronomy, Origin Norway
Thank you to the contributors under CC BY-SA 4.0!
Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive