Person: Ross, Edward Burns
Marcel Grossmann was a Swiss mathematician and a friend and collaborator of Einstein.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- In 1870, he founded a factory in Budapest where he was known by the Hungarian version of his name, Grossmann Gyula.
- Jules Grossmann was the joint owner of this successful factory.
- Marcel was brought up in Budapest where he attended the Dániel Berzsenyi Gymnasium.
- This famous high school had an excellent educational reputation and gave Grossmann an excellent background in mathematics.
- After completing his high school education in Basel, Grossmann entered the Zürich Polytechnikum (later named the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule) to study mathematics with the aim of qualifying as a Gymnasium teacher of mathematics.
- Two of Grossmann's ten fellow students were Mileva Maric and Albert Einstein.
- All three became close friends and Einstein, who did not attend many lectures, borrowed Grossmann's lecture notes in order to take his examinations in 1898.
- This was a good choice by Einstein, for Grossmann took careful notes - in fact these notes by Grossmann have survived so their quality can be seen today.
- In the final diploma examinations taken by six candidates in 1900 both Grossmann and Einstein were awarded diplomas while Mileva Maric failed.
- In 1900 Grossmann became an assistant to the geometer Otto Wilhelm Fiedler in Zürich.
- He had taught geometry to Grossmann, Einstein and Maric during their undergraduate studies and it was Grossmann who had excelled in the examinations of the geometry course.
- Grossmann was advised by Fiedler as he undertook research towards his doctorate which he obtained from Zürich Polytechnikum in 1902 for his thesis Über die metrischen Eigenschaften kollinearer Gebilde Ⓣ(On the metric properties of collinear structures).
- After Einstein and Grossmann graduated in 1900 they continued their friendship.
- Einstein certainly did not forget about his friend and when he wrote his thesis in 1905 he wrote on the title page: "Dedicated to my friend Dr Marcel Grossmann".
- In 1907 Grossmann became professor of descriptive geometry at the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule in Zürich.
- He was struggling to extend his special theory of relativity to include gravitation and immediately began collaborating with his old friend Grossmann.
- It was Grossmann who pointed out to him the relevance to general relativity of the tensor calculus which had been proposed by Elwin Bruno Christoffel in 1864, and developed by Gregorio Ricci-Curbastro and Tullio Levi-Civita around 1901.
- Einstein, who previously had played down the importance of mathematics, was quickly convinced by Grossmann's expert explanations.
- The collaboration between Grossmann and Einstein led to the first paper on the general theory of relativity in 1913.
- In one sense it is a joint paper but in another sense it consists of two separate papers, the first 22 pages being 'Physikalischer Teil' by Einstein and the next 16 pages being 'Mathematischer Teil' written by Grossmann.
- Also in 1913 Grossmann published Mathematische Begriffsbildungen zur Gravitationstheorie Ⓣ(Mathematical trends in gravitational theory).
- Other publications by Grossmann that we should mention are the textbooks Darstellende Geometrie Ⓣ(Descriptive geometry) (seven editions between 1915 and 1932), Darstellende Geometrie für Maschineningenieure Ⓣ(Descriptive geometry for mechanical engineers) (three editions between 1915 and 1927), Elemente der darstellenden Geometrie Ⓣ(Elements of descriptive geometry) (1917), and Einführung in die darstellende Geometrie Ⓣ(Introduction to descriptive geometry) (1917).
- In 1910, Grossmann co-founded the Swiss Mathematical Society along with Rudolf Fueter, professor of mathematics at the University of Basel, and Henri Fehr (1870-1954), professor for algebra and higher geometry at the University of Geneva.
- Fueter was the first president (1910-12), Fehr the second president (1913-15) and Grossmann the third president (1916-17).
- Grossmann's time as president was a particularly significant one since the First World War (1914-18), which saw France and Germany at war with each other, caused high tension between the German speaking part of Switzerland and the French speaking part.
- It was in large part due to Grossmann that the Society maintained a Switzerland-wide perspective in spite of the tension.
- The Swiss Mathematical Society was not the only society that Grossmann co-founded.
- Grossmann, and the other founders, realised that differences of opinion between different parts of Switzerland threatened the internal peace of the country and wanted to create a new Helvetic Society to preserve Swiss unity.
- In addition to founding these important Societies, Grossmann was a co-founder and editor of the newspaper Neuen Schweizer Zeitung.
- Finally we should mention the honour given to Marcel Grossmann by naming the series of conferences, the Marcel Grossmann Meetings (on Recent Developments in Theoretical and Experimental General Relativity, Gravitation, and Relativistic Field Theories).
Born 9 April 1878, Budapest, Hungary. Died 7 September 1936, Zürich, Switzerland.
View full biography at MacTutor
Tags relevant for this person:
Origin Hungary, Physics
Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive