Person: Gram, Jorgen Pedersen
Jorgen Gram was a Danish mathematician who is best remembered for the Gram-Schmidt orthogonalisation process.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- After completing two parts of his primary school education, Jorgen entered the Ribe Katedralskole secondary school in 1862.
- In 1873 Gram graduated with a Master's degree in mathematics.
- This degree was of a higher level than the present British/American Master's degree and more on a par with today's British/American Ph.D. Gram had published his first important mathematics paper before he had graduated.
- This was a work on modern algebra which appeared first in Tidsskrift for Mathematik but, in 1874, Gram published a fuller account of the same material in French.
- In 1875 Gram was appointed as an assistant in the Hafnia Insurance Company.
- We give more details below of this research interest which Gram followed for many years.
- Gram's mathematical career was always a balance between pure mathematics and very practical applications of the subject.
- Gram later published this work in the Journal für Mathematik and it proved to be of fundamental importance in the development of the theory of integral equations.
- Also in 1879 Gram published the second of his four papers on forestry which all appeared in Danish Forestry Journals.
- Gram never gained the international recognition for this work which he deserved but German researchers, unaware of Gram's contributions, published their own results on the same problems.
- There is little doubt that their work was far less satisfactory than that of Gram's yet because it was readily accessible it was the Germans and not Gram who gained international acclaim.
- Gram extended his work on forestry in later papers.
- Gram's work on probability and numerical analysis led him in a natural way to study abstract problems in number theory.
- Gram had corresponded with Meissel on this topic and in 1885 Meissel travelled to Denmark and met with Gram.
- Gram also worked on the Riemann zeta function.
- Although he continued to work for the Hafnia Insurance Company in more and more senior roles, Gram founded his own insurance company, the Skjold Insurance Company, in 1884.
- From 1895 until 1910 Gram was also an executive of the Hafnia Insurance Company.
- From 1910 until his death in 1916 Gram was Chairman of the Danish Insurance Council.
- It was through his work for the insurance companies that Gram became close to another Danish mathematician, Thorvald Thiele, who worked as an actuary.
- Despite not teaching mathematics in a university and as a consequence never having any students, Gram still managed to influence the next generation of Danish mathematicians in a very positive way.
- Gram received honours for his mathematical contributions despite being essentially an amateur mathematician.
- Gram is best remembered for the Gram-Schmidt orthogonalisation process which constructs an orthogonal set of vectors from an independent one.
- Gram met his death in a rather strange and very sad way.
Born 27 June 1850, Nustrup (18, km W of Haderslev), Denmark. Died 29 April 1916, Copenhagen, Denmark.
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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