Person: Levi-Civita, Tullio
Tullio Levi-Civita was an Italian mathematician who is best known for his work on the absolute differential calculus and the theory of tensors. He had problems later in his life with the rise of Fascism in Italy.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- Two of his teachers were Giuseppe Veronese and Ricci-Curbastro and Levi-Civita later collaborated with the latter.
- Levi-Civita was appointed to the Chair of Rational Mechanics at Padua in 1898, a post which he was to hold for 20 years.
- In particular in 1909 Castelnuovo tried hard to persuade him to move, but Levi-Civita was happy to remain in Padua.
- Levi-Civita was a pacifist with firm socialist ideas and it may well have been that he felt Padua suited his personality better than Rome at the time.
- Levi-Civita was always very international in his outlook and the ability of Rome to attract top quality students from abroad must have figured in his reasons to now want to make the move there.
- When Von Kármán approached Levi-Civita in 1922 suggesting a scientific meeting on fluid dynamics he knew that such a meeting could not be an official congress if German and Italian scientists were both involved so he proposed an informal one.
- Levi-Civita was enthusiastic but when the meeting took place in Innsbruck in September of that year the only scientists from the Allied Powers to participate were Levi-Civita and members of his research group.
- It was not just the international situation which gave Levi-Civita problems but also the effect of totalitarianism and anti-Semitism on scientific and university life.
- Later in 1936 the International Mathematical Congress was held in Oslo but Levi-Civita, and all other Italian mathematicians, were forbidden to attend by their government.
- Despite this Levi-Civita was appointed as a member of the Commission for awarding Fields Medals.
- Levi-Civita was dismissed from his professorship, forced to leave the editorial board of Zentralblatt für Mathematik, and prevented from attending the Fifth International Congress of Applied Mechanics in the United States.
- Levi-Civita had very great command of pure mathematics, with particularly strong geometric intuition which he applied to a variety of problems of applied mathematics.
- The paper was requested by Klein when he met Levi-Civita in Padua in 1899 and, following Klein's wishes, it appeared in Mathematische Annalen.
- Weyl was to take up Levi-Civita's ideas and make them into a unified theory of gravitation and electromagnetism.
- Levi-Civita's work was of extreme importance in the theory of relativity, and he produced a series of papers elegantly treating the problem of a static gravitational field.
- This topic was discussed in a correspondence between Levi-Civita and Einstein.
- the main mathematical and physical questions discussed by Einstein and Levi-Civita in their 1915 - 1917 correspondence: the variational formulation of the gravitational field equations and their covariance properties, and the definition of the gravitational energy and the existence of gravitational waves.
- Analytic dynamics was another topic studied by Levi-Civita, many of his papers examining special cases of the three-body problem.
- In 1950 (nine years after his death) a book by Levi-Civita entitled Le problème des n corps en relativité générale Ⓣ(The n body problem in general relativity) was published.
- Levi-Civita's interest in hydrodynamics began early in his career with his paper Note on the resistance of fluids appearing in 1901.
- Levi-Civita's work on asymptotic potential for slender tubes is at the core of the mathematical formulation of potential theory and capacity theory.
- In 1933 Levi-Civita contributed to Dirac's equations of quantum theory.
- The Royal Society conferred the Sylvester medal on Levi-Civita in 1922, while in 1930 he was elected a foreign member.
Born 29 March 1873, Padua, Veneto, Italy. Died 29 December 1941, Rome, Italy.
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Tags relevant for this person:
Astronomy, Origin Italy, Physics
Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive