**Minkowski** developed a new view of space and time and laid the mathematical foundation of the theory of relativity. He developed Spacetime diagrams.

- Hermann was his parents' third son.
- Minkowski first showed his talent for mathematics while studying at the Gymnasium in Königsberg.
- His became close friends with Hilbert while at Königsberg, for Hilbert was an undergraduate at the same time as Minkowski.
- The student Minkowski soon became close friends with the newly appointed academic Hurwitz.
- He received his doctorate in 1885 from Königsberg for a thesis entitled Untersuchungen über quadratische Formen, Bestimmung der Anzahl verschiedener Formen, welche ein gegebenes Genus enthält Ⓣ(Studies on square shapes, determining the number of different forms, containing a given genus) Minkowski became interested in quadratic forms early in his university studies.
- Minkowski, although only eighteen years old at the time, reconstructed Eisenstein's theory of quadratic forms and produced a beautiful solution to the Grand Prix problem.
- The decision was that the prize be shared between Minkowski and Smith but this was a stunning beginning to Minkowski's mathematical career.
- On 2 April 1883 the Academy granted the Grand Prize in Mathematics jointly to the young Minkowski at the start of his career and the elderly Smith at the end of his.
- Minkowski's doctoral thesis, submitted in 1885, was a continuation of this prize winning work involving his natural definition of the genus of a form.
- In 1887, a professorship became vacant at the University of Bonn, and Minkowski applied for that position; according to the regulations of German universities, he had to submit orally to the faculty an original paper, as an Habilitationsschrift.
- Minkowski taught at Bonn from 1887, being promoted to assistant professor in 1892.
- It was Hilbert who arranged for the chair to be created specially for Minkowski and he held it for the rest of his life.
- Minkowski developed a new view of space and time and laid the mathematical foundation of the theory of relativity.
- By 1907 Minkowski realised that the work of Lorentz and Einstein could be best understood in a non-euclidean space.
- Minkowski worked out a four-dimensional treatment of electrodynamics.
- In a paper published in 1908 Minkowski reformulated Einstein's 1905 paper by introducing the four-dimensional (space-time) non-Euclidean geometry, a step which Einstein did not think much of at the time.
- But more important is the attitude or philosophy that Minkowski, Hilbert - with whom Minkowski worked for a few years - Felix Klein and Hermann Weyl pursued, namely, that purely mathematical considerations, including harmony and elegance of ideas, should dominate in embracing new physical facts.
- In this view Minkowski followed Poincaré whose philosophy was that mathematical physics, as opposed to theoretical physics, can furnish new physical principles.
- A main motive behind this change was the influence of two prominent German mathematicians: David Hilbert and Hermann Minkowski.
- We have mentioned several times in this biography that Minkowski and Hilbert were close friends.
- Less well known is the fact that Minkowski actually suggested to Hilbert what he should take as the theme for his famous 1900 lecture in Paris.
- Minkowski also offered to give a talk himself in one of the section meetings, but for reasons that are not explained in the minutes he did not after all.
- Minkowski's original mathematical interests were in pure mathematics and he spent much of his time investigating quadratic forms and continued fractions.
- Minkowski published Diophantische Approximationen: Eine Einführung in die Zahlentheorie Ⓣ(Diophantine approximations: An Introduction to Number Theory) in 1907.
- At the young age of 44, Minkowski died suddenly from a ruptured appendix.

Born 22 June 1864, Alexotas, Russian Empire (now Lithuania). Died 12 January 1909, Göttingen, Germany.

View full biography at MacTutor

Astronomy, Origin Lithuania, Physics

**O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F**: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive