Person: Elfving, Erik Gustav
Erik Gustav Elfving was a Finnish mathematician and statistician who worked in the optimal design of experiments.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- Elfving graduated from the Gymnasium in the spring of 1926 and, later that year, entered the University of Helsinki with the intention of studying astronomy.
- Elfving changed from majoring in astronomy to majoring in mathematics and graduated in 1930 with astronomy and physics as minor subjects.
- Elfving's undergraduate career saw him achieve top marks and he was awarded the Donner Prize in 1930 for his dissertation Zur Reduktion von Echolotungen Ⓣ(On the reduction of echo soundings).
- (Anders Donner (1854-1938) was the professor of astronomy at the University of Helsinki observatory between 1883 and 1915.) Elfving had worked as an computational assistant at the Helsinki Observatory during the years 1927-29 while studying for his first degree.
- Elfving therefore decided to undertake research at the University of Helsinki advised by Rolf Nevanlinna.
- A tragic event in 1935 had a major affect on Elfving's career.
- The aim of the expedition was to map the west of that vast land and Elfving's experience working at the Helsinki Observatory made him an excellent choice.
- This actually proved extremely beneficial to Elfving who spent the days thinking about least squares.
- After the expedition returned, Elfving obtained a position as a lecturer at a Swedish language university, the Abo Akademi in Turku, Finland.
- Gustav and Irene Elfving had three sons, Johan Fredrik Elfving (born 1938), Jörn Gustav Elfving (born 1941) and Tord Bernhard Elfving (born 1946).
- In 1938 Elfving returned to Helsinki where he was appointed as a lecturer at the Helsinki University of Technology.
- Elfving served as a geodesist in the Finnish coast artillery while also managing to continue lecturing at the University of Technology.
- Elfving applied for the chair but no quick decision was taken and all the applicants were given a year in which to prove their case for being appointed.
- Elfving spent 1946-47 at the University of Stockholm, but also made visits to the United States where he lectured at Princeton University in the autumn of 1946 and on his next visit, at Yale in the spring of 1947.
- All three referees ranked Elfving in first position and he was appointed to the chair in 1948.
- Although he held the chair at Helsinki from 1948 to 1975, Elfving spent much time on research visits to the United States.
- Let us look now at some of Elfving's important contributions.
- The work of Elfving introduced a fundamentally new direction in this field.
- The revolutionary impact of Elfving's contribution was due to the confluence of several factors.
- Elfving was primarily interested in fundamental ideas.
- In 1981, Elfving published the book The history of mathematics in Finland, 1828-1918.
- Elfving was honoured with election as a fellow of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics, as a member of the International Statistical Institute, and as an honorary member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
- Colleagues and friends came to see the more personal side of Gustav Elfving: a considerate and warm human being as well as an open-minded man who enjoyed conversation, contributing to it with charm and wit.
- Elfving wrote poems and enjoyed philosophical discussions ...
- Elfving died at his home in Helsinki and was buried in the Hietaniemi Cemetery in Helsinki.
Born 25 June 1908, Helsinki, Finland. Died 25 March 1984, Helsinki, Finland.
View full biography at MacTutor
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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