Person: Süss, Wilhelm
Wilhelm Süss was a German mathematician important as the founder of the Oberwolfach Mathematical Institute.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- Wilhelm inherited their love and talents for music.
- At his high school Wilhelm excelled in all his subjects and he had quite a difficult decision to make when entering university as to which subject he would study.
- Süss submitted his thesis Begründung der Inhaltslehre im Raum ohne Benutzung von Stetigkeitsaxiomen Ⓣ(Justification of the inclusion rule in space without the use of continuity axioms) to Frankfurt in March 1920.
- Süss moved from Frankfurt to Berlin to become Bieberbach's assistant but seems to have spent more time working for the German Mathematical Society than for Bieberbach.
- In January 1923 Süss accepted a position in Kagoshima, Japan and began his new job in March.
- It was not really a mathematical job but rather saw Süss using his skills in German language and literature.
- After five years in Japan, Süss corresponded with Karl Reinhardt who was professor at Greifswald.
- Süss accepted the idea and returned from Japan in 1928 to take up the lecturing post at Greifswald.
- This was a difficult time in Germany and Süss soon felt that the country was suffering unfairly.
- Supporters of each view can point to evidence to support their case and it is doubtful whether it will ever be possible to clarify Süss's motives.
- Exemption was given to those who were members of the Stahlhelm, a veteran's organisation, so Süss joined the Stahlhelm.
- In 1934 Alfred Loewy, Süss's former teacher, was dismissed from his chair at the University of Freiburg under the Nazi legislation dismissing Jews.
- Süss negotiated with the Ministry about succeeding Loewy and was appointed to the chair at Freiburg.
- According to Irmgard Süss, he began his discussions with the Ministry but making it clear that he was not a member of the Nazi party.
- At Freiburg Süss became a colleague of Doetsch and until 1940 the two were joint mathematical leaders of the university.
- After Blaschke and Hamel had served as Chairman, Süss was appointed in 1937.
- Some see his chairmanship as saving the German Mathematical Society, while others see it as a period when Süss enthusiastically cooperated with the National Socialists.
- Süss certainly initiated the expulsion of Jews from editorial boards, specifically asking that Issai Schur be removed from the board of Mathematische Zeitschrift in 1938.
- There is no doubt that during his period as Chairman, from 1938 to 1945, Süss worked in close collaboration with Nazi government officials.
- They emphasise that things in the Third Reich were much more subtle than people who condemn Süss realise.
- Today Süss is remembered as the creator of the Oberwolfach Mathematical Institute.
- Hasse wrote to Süss on 24 March 1944 suggesting he leave Freiburg and move to Göttingen.
- Süss was not only the founded of the Institute but he became its first director.
- Süss was suspended from his position at Freiburg at the end of the war.
- Süss too claimed that he had always opposed Nazi policies and that he had supported colleagues suffering under Nazi policies.
- Süss was reinstated after two months, and Freiburg elected him Rector of the University in 1958.
- Süss worked hard to make the Institute truly international.
- From 1949 to 1953 three to five meetings were held every year; the number increased to about a dozen per year after Süss secured funding from the federal government.
- Let us look at some of the mathematics which Süss produced, in particular examining papers which give results which are rather typical of his mathematical output.
- In 1947 Süss proved the following theorem in Kennzeichnende Eigenschaften der Kugel als Folgerung eines Brouwerschen Fixpunktsatzes Ⓣ(Characteristic properties of the sphere as a consequence of Brouwer's fixed-point theorem).
- In 1954 Süss's paper Eine characteristische Eigenschaft der Ellipse Ⓣ(A characteristic property of the ellipse) proved the following theorem: Let MMM be a set of ovals equivalent to each other under the group of affine transformations, and let MMM have the property that any two of its members meeting in more than four points coincide.
- We should also mention Süss's work as an editor of Fundamentals of mathematics (first edition in German in 1958) which he worked on with Behnke, F Bachmann, K Fladt.
Born 7 March 1895, Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Died 21 May 1958, Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany.
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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