Person: De Vries (2), Hendrik
Hendrik de Vries was a Dutch mathematician who was interested in projective geometry and in the history of mathematics.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- Before we give his biography we should say a little about two other mathematicians named de Vries who were both roughly the same age as Hendrik and were his colleagues.
- Gustav de Vries is the de Vries of the Korteweg-de Vries equation and has a biography in this archive.
- Just to make it harder to distinguish Gustav and Hendrik, they both had Diederik Korteweg as their thesis advisor.
- He was a classical geometer who, after teaching at secondary school level in Kampen and Haarlem, taught at the technical college in Delft.
- When we refer to de Vries in this biography, we always mean Hendrik de Vries and when we mention any other de Vries we give their name in full.
- There is one other de Vries that we should note here, namely Hugo de Vries (1848-1935), a biologist who is also mentioned below.
- It provided education for those who previously had virtually no opportunity to attend school after completing primary school.
- After four years of study, de Vries graduated from the Eidgenossische Polytechnicum in 1890 and was appointed as an assistant to Wilhelm Fiedler, who had taught him as an undergraduate, to work on descriptive and projective geometry.
- In 1894, after four years as Fiedler's assistant, de Vries returned to the Netherlands.
- At the same time he studied for a doctorate in mathematics at the University of Amsterdam with Diederik Korteweg as his advisor.
- He was awarded a doctorate in 1901 having submitted his thesis Over de restdoorsnede van twee volgens eene vlakke kromme perspectivische kegels, en over satelliet krommen Ⓣ(On the residual cross-section of two according to one plane curve perspective cones, and associated curves).
- In 1902 de Vries was appointed as a mathematics teacher at the Polytechnic School in Delft.
- There he showed himself a very successful teacher of students who were studying to become engineers.
- In 1905 the school was transformed into a Technical High School and de Vries was happy to remain there and not to seek to gain a position at a more prestigious institution.
- However, he was advised by senior colleagues, in particular by Jan de Vries from Utrecht, that he should seek to move.
- Eventually persuaded, he remained at the Technical High School in Delft for one further year before he was appointed as a Professor of Mathematics at the Municipal University of Amsterdam in 1906.
- The vacancy in Amsterdam had occurred due to the retirement of Adrianus Jacobus van Pesch (1837-1916), an applied mathematician who had been Jan de Vries's thesis advisor.
- When the candidates for the chair were ranked by the assessors, de Vries came top with Frederik Schuh second.
- Frederik Schuh (1875-1966) was an algebraic geometer who, like de Vries, had been advised by Korteweg when writing his thesis.
- De Vries gave his inaugural address on 10 December 1906 entitled Mathesis and mathematicians.
- From his first appointment, his teaching load was heavy and he gave twelve lectures each week on Higher Algebra, Descriptive Geometry, and Differential and Integral Calculus.
- Although he had been reluctant to move from Delft, once he began teaching in Amsterdam he realised what good advice he had been given about moving.
- One reason that he was so much happier was that in Amsterdam he could teach geometry, his specialty, while in Delft he had taught mainly analysis.
- In 1910 Korteweg tried to get Brouwer a chair and also sought supporters to help propose him for membership of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (at that time named the Koninklijke Akademie van Wetenschappen).
- De Vries was one of those proposing Brouwer for membership of the Academy on 25 March 1911.
- De Vries also supported Schuh for election to the Academy and, over the next few years, supported Arnaud Denjoy and David Hilbert.
- De Vries excelled in providing comments under his breath that heavily taxed Brouwer's facial muscles.
- Martha had been born on 30 December 1884 in Amsterdam to parents Egbert van Zanden (1848-1906) and Maria Elisabeth Broeder (1859-1950).
- In 1913 de Vries was asked if he was interested in the vacant professorship in Groningen.
- This had been held by Pieter Hendrik Schoute from 1881 until his death in April 1913.
- Also he would be able to teach only geometry whereas in Amsterdam his heavy lecturing load included topics he was less enthusiastic to lecture on.
- At Amsterdam, he supervised the doctoral studies of a number of students who went on the make important contributions to mathematics, the most famous of these being Bartel van der Waerden who was awarded a doctorate in 1926 for a thesis on the foundations of algebraic geometry.
- However, in the year 1924-25, De Vries had three doctoral students, namely B L van der Waerden, Max Euwe, and Cornelis Zwikker (1900-1985).
- Surprisingly, given how famous van der Waerden became, he later said that Euwe, who became world chess champion, was the best of the three.
- We note that Zwikker became a professor of Theoretical and Applied Physics at the University of Delft.
- Although initially de Vries's research interest was in geometry, and in particular projective geometry, he became interested in the history of mathematics through reading the works of Gaspard Monge, Julius Plücker and August Möbius.
- Other articles look at Archimedes, Eratosthenes, John Napier and the first logarithmic tables, Descartes' La Géométrie Ⓣ(Geometry) and Fermat's Ad locus planos et solidus Isagoge Ⓣ(Introduction to planes and solids).
- De Vries continued to study geometers and their contributions publishing a much more detailed look at Julius Plücker in 1931 In this paper he included a study of the contributions of Joseph Gergonne and Gabriel Lamé.
- His lectures took in algebra and analysis, but from 1921-22 onwards, he focused increasingly on his preferred field, giving public lectures on the development of geometry.
- These culminated in a series of articles in the 'Nieuw Tijdschrift voor Wiskunde' (New Journal of Mathematics), which were later collected, together with some other items, in a three volume publication entitled 'Historische Studien' (1926).
- De Vries wrote in the introduction that he wanted to focus attention on the historical development of very precisely defined topics, even specific problems or theorems.
- He knew how to give fascinating talks about the origins of Analytical Geometry, the misunderstood 'Rough draft for an essay on the results of taking plane sections of a cone' of Desargues, the brilliant young man Blaise Pascal, and especially about Gaspard Monge, who as a student at the École Militaire, using some simple constructions, solved an important problem ...
- He made many a witty remark 'en passant'.
- Hendrik de Vries and Gerrit Mannoury had reached retirement age.
- Brouwer, as director of the Institute, addressed them in the name of the faculty, and Max Euwe spoke on behalf of the students.
- One thing is even more depressing and nasty than the other.
- We should give some information about some of those mentioned in this quote so that the reader can understand the events that de Vries refers to.
- Jan Theodoor Stomps (1885-1973) was a biologist who had served as an assistant to Hugo de Vries and later had been appointed as a professor at Amsterdam in 1920.
Born 25 August 1867, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Died 3 March 1954, Binyamina, Israel.
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