Person: Broch, Ole Jacob
Ole Jacob Broch was a Norwegian mathematician, physicist and economist who became a government minister.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- His parents were Johan Jørgen Broch (1791-1860), a military man and a member of parliament, and Jensine Laurentze Bentzen (1790-1877).
- Broch was a gifted student, and soon, many were hoping that he would become Abel's successor.
- Broch spent the years from 1840 to 1842 abroad supported by grants from the State.
- He attended lectures at the École Polytechnique and the Collège de France by Claude-Louis Navier and by Jacques Babinet (1794-1872), an expert on optics.
- The French Academy of Sciences having "lost" Abel's thesis may have worked to Broch's advantage, as no one wanted to risk committing a similar offence towards another Norwegian.
- Broch was therefore well received in Paris, not least by Cauchy, one of the central figures in the Abel scandal.
- Cauchy's work on the theory of light aroused Broch's interest, and it was in this field that he would make his greatest scientific contribution.
- Ole Jacob Broch became a professor of mathematics, a school reformer, a textbook author and a government minister.
- While he was abroad, Broch was active in areas beyond mathematics.
- In Berlin he studied optics and descriptive geometry, while in Königsberg in 1842 he studied mathematical physics with Carl Jacobi, Friedrich Julius Richelot (1808-1875), and Franz Neumann.
- A third scientific area that inspired Broch while abroad was the application of mathematics to statistics.
- One can easily get the impression that once Broch had proved his mathematical ability by completing some advanced and independent work, he then hurried on to try out his other skills.
- However, Broch resigned from his position quickly, in order to found Nissen's Latin and Science School in 1843 with his friend Hartvig Nissen (1815-1874).
- His involvement with this school, which lasted until 1847, is typical of Broch, who worked to raise the level of science education there, just as he would do in his other positions within the education sector.
- During the school's first few years, Ole Jacob Broch obviously led all the teaching of mathematics.
- When Broch left the school ...
- As professor of mathematics Broch not only taught future teachers ...
- Broch was known to be such a strict examiner and censor that many could not pass his requirements ...
- Broch was part of the creation of an institution that recruited students, on behalf of the university, for a new course that did not yet exist, but of which Broch was a great advocate, and which would aim to educate science teachers.
- It has been claimed that Broch was the brains behind this reform.
- In 1847, Broch was the first to make use of the new rule that made it possible to write his doctoral thesis in Norwegian.
- Broch resumed his position as a fellow at the University of Christiania after the award of his doctorate.
- In 1848, Broch was appointed extraordinary lecturer in applied mathematics to relieve Christopher Hansteen from his substantial workload, with the clear assumption that Broch would take over whichever of the two positions that would first become available.
- When Holmboe died unexpectedly in March 1850, Broch started lecturing in pure mathematics.
- Broch continued lecturing on mechanics even after going over to pure mathematics.
- Broch was also involved in the question of developing a polytechnic course or school, an issue that was not resolved during his life time.
- He agreed that a polytechnic education should become part of the university, but argued at the same time that this was far too expensive, and that it would be better if the science high schools taught the basic level of technological education and the university and the Military College (Den militaere høyskole) shared responsibility for the higher-level technological education.
- Broch worked at the university from 1848 to 1869 and again from 1872 to 1879, from 1858 onwards as a professor.
- For many years (1843-1858), Broch taught the armed forces, first at the Military Academy (Krigsskolen), and later at the Military College as well.
- Broch extended his activity beyond academia early on and he applied his skills practically in his work in many areas of society.
- He played a central role in 1857 during the establishment of Den norske Creditbank, a commercial bank, and was at its head for several years from 1859 onwards.
- Telegraph and railway construction was another area in which Broch was active.
- Broch left the university in 1869 when he became part of the government, where he was at the head of the Department of the Navy and the Postal Service.
- Unlike most of the government, Broch disagreed with this.
- Broch argued that this denial would actually provoke what would later be called "parliamentary government", i.e. that the government would practically be under the control of the parliamentary majority.
- Politically, Broch must be considered a moderate.
- Ole Jacob Broch espoused Scandinavianism, the idea of uniting Norway, Sweden and Denmark, and was the first chairman of the Scandinavian Society (Skandinaviske Selskab) founded in 1864.
- In practice, this can be seen through Broch's work for the establishment of the railroad, the telegraph and the postal service, and more indirectly through his efforts in banking and insurance.
- Broch's work in this area was crucial for Norway, who adopted the metric system in 1875, and his contribution was also of great importance internationally.
- During the 1870s, Broch's scientific endeavours in Norway gave way to international duties.
- Broch's career as a scientist concluded with the large standardization work being virtually completed by his death.
- During the tense days in June 1884, when Christian Homann Schweigaard's "April government" resigned, Ole Jacob Broch was called back from Paris and asked to try to form a government.
- How much the lost opportunity to become prime minister meant for Broch himself is uncertain.
- Few have had as many public and semi-public positions as Broch.
- In addition to the tasks for which Broch's academic qualifications made him the obvious choice, he also had a wide range of duties that required comprehensive professional knowledge, critical sense and above all academic authority.
- Ole Jacob Broch was a significant personality in Norway in the 19th century, especially since he was active in so many various areas.
Born 4 January 1818, Fredrikstad, Norway. Died 5 February 1889, Sèvres, France.
View full biography at MacTutor
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Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive