Person: Geöcze, Zoárd
Zoárd Geöcze was a Hungarian mathematician famous for his theory of surfaces.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- Budapest had been created from the union of the towns of Pest, Buda, and Obuda in the year before Zoárd was born there, although it had operated as a single town from the time that the Chain Bridge across the Danube was opened in 1849.
- Geöcze attended two secondary modern schools in Budapest where his performance was about average, and showed nothing of the brilliant mathematical abilities which he would later display.
- However, things did not go particularly well for Geöcze for he managed to fall out with his professor Julius König.
- König ran a seminar at the University of Budapest which inspired Geöcze who submitted a paper to König as his entry in a competition.
- König was not happy with the way that the paper was written and Geöcze, instead of taking the good advice that König was giving him, swore at his professor.
- No professor likes to be sworn at by their students, so König's reaction is entirely understandable; he withdrew his support from Geöcze so that it became essentially impossible for him to obtain an academic position.
- Despite the research potential that Geöcze had demonstrated, the only career now open to him in mathematics was as a secondary school teacher.
- In 1899 Geöcze left Podolin and took up a position in Ungvár.
- The town is today Uzhgorod, in western Ukraine, but when Geöcze went to teach there (and for 20 years after that) it was in Hungary.
- It was in Ungvár that Geöcze published his first mathematics paper, in the 1904-5 yearbook of the school where he taught.
- In the yearbook for the following year, 1905-6, Geöcze published another paper this time dealing with the problems of surface area.
- Here is how Geöcze defined the area of a surface.
- Geöcze's papers were seen by a professor at the University of Kolozsvár who suggested that he write up his ideas and submit them to Comptes Rendus for publication.
- On the basis of this Geöcze was awarded a scholarship to study in Paris for a year.
- This work marks the beginning of the modern theory of functions of a real variable, but before arriving in Paris Geöcze had not been familiar with this theory; in particular he had not known of Lebesgue's definition of surface area.
- It appears that although Geöcze had brilliant ideas, he did not have the skill to express these ideas in a way that was easily understood by other mathematicians.
- Again in Paris he had similar difficulties, for Lebesgue also found it hard to understand a paper which Geöcze asked him to comment on, and returned it to Geöcze saying that the style of the paper, together with the large amount of notation and definitions meant he had given up trying to understand it.
- Geöcze returned to Ungvár where he taught during 1909, but then returned to Paris in 1910 when he was awarded a doctorate from the Sorbonne.
- With an increasing international reputation as a mathematician, but still only a secondary school teacher in Hungary, Geöcze decided that he would be better moving to Budapest.
- Geöcze was called up into the Austro-Hungarian army and sent to the front where the army was attacking Serbia.
- The Serbians, however, forced the Austro-Hungarian army to retreat and Geöcze's regiment suffered extreme hardship.
- Geöcze was one of the survivors and he, together with other survivors, was put into a regiment which was then sent to the fighting on the northern front near Chernovitsy (now in southwestern Ukraine).
- The commander of the regiment saw that Geöcze was better suited to tasks other than trench warfare, and put him in charge of a power station and its network of supply lines.
- Although the work was extremely hard, Geöcze found time to continue his mathematical research and sent papers containing his results to Budapest by military post.
- However the hardship took its toll and Geöcze became ill and was sent from Chernovitsy to Vienna.
Born 23 August 1873, Budapest, Hungary. Died 26 November 1916, Budapest, Hungary.
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