Person: Bäcklund, Victor
Victor Bäcklund wasa Swedish physicist and mathematician.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- Hans was working as an accountant at the Höganäsverken when Victor was born but left in 1852 after which time he was an accountant at the Skane Enskilda Bank in Helsingborg.
- Hill was not a good teacher and, as a consequence, it was not his lectures that attracted Bäcklund to mathematics.
- Rather it was the seminars of the assistant professor, Edvard von Zeipel (appointed to Lund in 1861), that turned Bäcklund towards mathematics.
- After his Candidates' Degree, Bäcklund continued to undertake research at Lund for his doctorate, advised by Möller, which was awarded in 1868.
- Despite writing a thesis on astronomy, Bäcklund published a paper on geometry "Några satser om plana algebraiska kurvor, som gå genom samma skärningspunkter" Ⓣ(Some comments on planar algebraic curves, which go through the same intersection points) in 1868.
- Bäcklund, although relatively inexperienced at this stage in his career, applied for the position as did Edvard von Zeipel, the assistant professor, Carl Fabian Emanuel Björling, a lecturer in Halmstad, Göran Dillner, an assistant professor in Uppsala, and Sophus Lie.
- Perhaps surprisingly, since he was also a candidate for the chair, Bäcklund was asked to act as Björling's opponent for this defence.
- Bäcklund pointed out that many of the results claimed by Björling had been proved many years before by Euler.
- Bäcklund was the youngest of the candidates and did not stand much chance of being appointed despite being able to present five papers in algebraic geometry.
- Möller rated Edvard von Zeipel as the leading candidate, Bäcklund as third, and Björling in last place.
- Bäcklund, however, was able to spend time away from Lund after he received funding to make a trip to Germany to further his studies.
- It was in this new area of differential equations that Bäcklund produced his more notable results, namely on what are today called Bäcklund transformations.
- All Bäcklund's papers on algebraic geometry are in Swedish and published in Swedish journals.
- During the time that the author (C W Olseen) heard him (the 1890's) Bäcklund carried a double burden.
- Bäcklund continued in the position of extraordinary professor until 1897 when he was made full professor of mechanics and mathematical physics.
- Bäcklund's physical theory falls into none of these categories.
- To reduce physics to mechanics! To prove that all physical phenomena can be deduced from various forms of motion! This is the object, more philosophical than physical, which Bäcklund in his activity as a mathematical physicist tried to realize.
- This was the tragic element in Bäcklund's life as a theoretical physicist.
- It is perhaps regrettable that Bäcklund was not able to devote himself to mathematics all his life.
Born 11 January 1845, Väsby, Malmöhus County, Sweden. Died 23 February 1922, Lund, Sweden.
View full biography at MacTutor
Tags relevant for this person:
Astronomy, Origin Sweden
Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive