Person: Brun, Viggo
Viggo Brun was a Norwegian mathematician and number theorist.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- Now, from the dates we have just given we can see that Viggo's parents died when he was young.
- Many bright pupils in Brun's position would have read mathematics books to take them into deeper studies than those being presented in their courses.
- Brun's approach was, however, different and he tried to develop his own mathematical ideas without having the support of teachers or advanced texts and, as a consequence, he produced some rather original ideas while still an undergraduate.
- In 1910 Brun went to Göttingen University in Germany, the leading mathematics centre in the world at this time, and while he was there he began to work on what were some of the most difficult problems in number theory.
- We should note that Brun received no financial support for his visit to Göttingen and he funded the visit entirely from his own funds.
- The number theorist Edmund Landau had been appointed to a professorship at Göttingen a year before Brun arrived and Hilbert and Klein were also on the staff.
- There is no evidence that Brun interacted in any meaningful way with any of these, but he must have benefited from listening to Edmund Landau.
- Returning to Norway, Brun did receive a research grant to support his work but at this stage he had no job.
- Brun served for a number of years in the Norwegian armed forces.
- Brun's first results were given in Über das Goldbachsche Gesetz und die Anzahl der Primzahlpaare Ⓣ(On Goldbach's theorem and the number of prime pairs) (1915).
- However, the ideas that Brun introduced in this paper, further developed by him and later by others, would lead to a revolution in number theory.
- The proof uses what today is called 'Brun's sieve'.
- Later mathematicians have strengthened these results, using methods based on those first developed by Brun, but the two conjectures are still open.
- Let us return to Brun's career.
- In 1946 Brun was appointed to a chair at the University of Oslo which he occupied for nine years until he retired in 1955 at the age of seventy.
- Brun published two books after he retired, namely The Art of Calculating in Old Norway until the Time of Abel (Norwegian) (1962) and All is Number, a History of Mathematics from Antiquity to the Renaissance (Norwegian) (1964).
- In addition to these books on the history of mathematics, Brun wrote many papers on the subject.
- Another topic that interested Brun was the theory of music.
- Though not musically gifted, Viggo Brun had a strong sense for harmony and geometric symmetry.
- Christoph Scriba met Brun in 1955 at a conference on the history of mathematics at the Oberwolfach mathematics research centre in the Black Forest, Germany.
- Many honours were given to Brun for his outstanding contributions.
- In 1946 Brun was awarded the Norwegian Institute of Technology Founder's Prize, and in 1958 he received the Gunnerus medal of the Royal Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters.
- Brun also received an honorary doctorate from the University of Hamburg in 1966.
Born 13 October 1885, Lier, Hordaland County, Norway. Died 15 August 1978, Drobak, Akershus County, Norway.
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