Person: Dijksterhuis, Eduard Jan
Eduard Jan Dijksterhuis was a Dutch mathematician best known for his work in the history and philosophy of mathematics.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- After the award of his first degree, Dijksterhuis continued to study at the University of Groningen for his doctorate advised by John Antony Barrau (1873-1953).
- In addition to his studies, Dijksterhuis was also active in student life.
- While undertaking research, Dijksterhuis was appointed as a part-time mathematics teachers at the girls' Hogere Burgerschool in Groningen in 1916.
- Although Dijksterhuis began teaching for financial reasons, he did not intend to remain a school teacher but wanted an academic career in universities.
- Dijksterhuis had made the decision to study mathematics rather than classical literature but this did not mean that he wanted to give up his love of literature.
- In these papers Dijksterhuis discussed the laws of falling bodies, looking at Aristotle and the centuries of beliefs that fall time was inversely proportional to the weight of the body and directly proportional to the density of the medium.
- Dijksterhuis discusses the opposition to these ideas, particularly by Giovanni Battista Benedetti, and emphasizes the difficulties Galileo still had to deal with Aristotelian influences.
- But after that Dijksterhuis became a central figure in his school that remained small and well-organized for a long time.
- However, Dijksterhuis regularly let his students share in his other interests, such as the music of Bach and Bruckner and the history of mathematics and the natural sciences.
- Dijksterhuis became a permanent employee of the new journal, which in the first years was the mouthpiece of those who advocated a rigorous approach to mathematics, in the spirit of the Greek philosopher Euclid.
- His active involvement in the reform of mathematics education led, in 1925, to Dijksterhuis becoming the secretary of a commission set up by the College of Inspectors of Secondary Education to prepare a new mathematics education programme at Hogere Burgerschools, called the Beth Commission after the chairman.
- The new programme, prepared by Dijksterhuis, was entirely in the spirit of the rigorous direction.
- Later Dijksterhuis would call his ideal education, aimed at insight and not at skill, 'epistemic' - a term derived from his most important source of inspiration, the Greek philosopher Plato.
- Tirelessly, Dijksterhuis has advocated the importance of this epistemic mathematics education, not only in 'Euclides', but also in the 'Weekblad voor Middelbaar en Gymnasiaal Onderwijs'.
- In December 1922 Dijksterhuis sent an article to De Gids Ⓣ(The Guide) in which he advocated classical education for mathematicians and physicists.
- That Dijksterhuis would oppose the Limburg Act is no surprise given what we have quoted above regarding his views on mathematics education.
- Dijksterhuis's first major book was Val en Worp.
- Dijksterhuis does take a different approach, however, in that he gives the quote in the original Greek or Latin as well as a translation into Dutch more focused on accuracy than beauty.
- Dijksterhuis published impressive works on Euclid, Archimedes, and Simon Stevin.
- The work of the resident of a small country is easily overlooked; American and French bibliographical works of 1952 and 1954 do not or hardly mention the work of Dijksterhuis.
- Dijksterhuis did try to arouse interest in the history of science twice through a private teaching post, but those who are familiar with the academic world will understand that these attempts had little effect.
- In 1953 Dijksterhuis gained the university position he had always wished for.
- Dijksterhuis did not receive as many honours as we feel he deserved but his remarkable contributions were recognised during his lifetime.
- Dijksterhuis also received the Karl Sudhoff Commemorative Medal from the German Society for the History of Medicine and Natural Science, recognizing that he was among the greatest in the field of history of science.
- Let us end with a quote from a lecture Dijksterhuis delivered at Utrecht University in 1952.
Born 28 October 1892, Tilburg, Netherlands. Died 18 May 1965, De Bilt, Netherlands.
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