Person: Lerch, Mathias
Mathias Lerch was a Czech mathematician who worked in analysis and number theory.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- Like most people from that part of the world in that period he has both a German version of his name, Mathias, and a Czech version, Matyáš.
- However there is no evidence that he ever used the name Matěj and he always used Matyáš.
- Lerch should have begun his education at an elementary school at the age of six.
- After the elementary school, which he left older than other pupils because of his late start, Lerch progressed to the lower secondary burgher school of Sušice.
- After studying at the burgher school, Lerch reached the end of his compulsory schooling in 1877.
- It seems that a religious dispute with one of his teachers led to Lerch leaving the school in Pilsen and attending a secondary school at Rakovník, due west of Prague, in 1879.
- At this time in his education, Lerch was aiming at becoming a school teacher and, in the autumn of 1880, he enrolled in the Czech Polytechnic in Prague.
- With most career paths now closed to him, Lerch decided at this time to aim at becoming a university teacher.
- In the year 1883-84 Lerch wrote six papers, his first paper Beitrag zur Theorie der Kegelschnitte Ⓣ(Contribution to the theory of conic sections) (1881) having been written in his first year at university.
- Although Lerch had been interested in geometry during his early studies, he moved to analysis and studied the work being published by Hermann Laurent, Otto Stolz and Johannes Thomae.
- In 1886 Lerch habilitated at the Czech Technical Institute in Prague and on 14 September of that year joined the teaching staff there.
- Over the next few years Lerch produced, on average, about one paper per month, a quite stunning achievement.
- Lerch lectured on analytical functions and on the geometry of rational curves while an assistant to Eduard Weyr, but, after becoming an assistant to Blažek, he gave lectures on potential theory, higher algebra, the theory of numbers, analytic geometry, and the theory of functions.
- There is a slightly strange episode in 1886 when Lerch was awarded a travel scholarship by Prague City Council.
- Of course Prague City Council were not happy that they had awarded two scholarships to Lerch without him doing the allotted tasks and asked him to return the money.
- In 1900 Lerch was awarded the Grand Prix from the Academy of Sciences in Paris for his paper Essais sur le calcul du nombre des classes de formes quadratiques binaires aux ceoffcients entiers Ⓣ(Essay on the calculation of the number of classes of quadratic binary forms with integer ceoffcients) and he used the prize money to repay the debt he had with Prague City Council.
- Of course failing to carry out the duties he had been paid for did not improve the attitude of either Lerch's colleagues nor of the administrative bodies towards him.
- Therefore, it is not surprising that thirty-six year old Matyáš Lerch, who it appears had directed his criticism and sharp wit against the mentioned dignities, despite being the author of about 120 scientific papers published in many international journals and having lectured on the results in these at the University of Paris, despite being an associate member of the Royal Czech Academy of Sciences and of the Czech Academy since 1893, was not able to find a reasonable position in his Czech homeland after ten years of being an instructor in Prague, and therefore had to move abroad.
- At the University of Fribourg, Lerch lectured in French and German on elliptic functions and similar topics.
- Lerch was Dean of the Faculty of Science in the academic year 1900-01.
- A year after the founding of Czechoslovakia, a new university, named the Masaryk University after the first president, was founded in Brno and Lerch became the first professor of mathematics there in 1920.
- Also, the Lerch zeta-function is a well-known generalization of Riemann's zeta-function due to him ...
- As we mentioned above, Lerch won the Grand Prize of the Paris Academy of Sciences in 1900 with a work on number theory, a great honour for any mathematician and an even greater achievement for a mathematician from outside France.
- Lerch suffered from diabetes which cased his health to progressively worsen over the years although staying at health resorts in the vacations improved things temporarily.
Born 20 February 1860, Milínov (near Sušice), South Bohemia (now Czech Republic). Died 3 August 1922, Sušice, Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic).
View full biography at MacTutor
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Origin Czech Republic
Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive