Person: Friedrichs, Kurt Otto
Kurt Friedrichs was a German American mathematician who worked on many aspects of partial differential equations. He was the co-founder of the Courant Institute.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- His parents were Karl Friedrichs, who was a lawyer and expert on Civil Service law, and Elisabeth Entel from Silesia.
- an exceptionally lovely woman whom the boy Friedrichs adored ...
- This friendship would play a role in Kurt's future.
- Friedrichs followed this custom and spent a term in Greifswald, a year in Freiburg, and a term in the Austrian university of Graz.
- Friedrichs lived in a former prisoner-of-war camp and, like the other students, found that conditions due to the high inflation were so bad that students scarcely had enough to eat.
- Yet the quality of the lecturers was remarkable, and Friedrichs was amazed at the broad mathematical knowledge of Carl Ludwig Siegel and Emil Artin.
- Friedrichs went to Aachen in 1929 to take up a position as assistant to Theodore von Kármán.
- It was Courant who had set this up and leaving Göttingen was difficult for Friedrichs.
- In 1929 Friedrichs returned to Göttingen and presented his habilitation thesis there.
- Friedrichs became professor at the Technische Hochschule in Braunschweig in 1931.
- Just days after this Friedrichs met Nellie Bruell, a young Jewish girl, as a ball in Braunschweig.
- It became increasingly clear that, although Friedrichs was not directly affected by the Nazis laws against Jews, many of his friends and colleagues were directly affected in a very serious way.
- Nellie, who was now Friedrichs' girlfriend, was also dismissed from her position as an assistant at the Technische Hochschule.
- Friedrichs visited Courant in New York in the summer of 1935, officially to work with him on the second volume of Courant-Hilbert, but in fact mainly to see if it might be possible for him to emigrate.
- By the time Friedrichs had returned to Braunschweig, the Nazis had passed laws forbidding marriage between Aryans and non-Aryans.
- She also left Germany and went to Lyon to await instructions from Friedrichs.
- Friedrichs arrived in New York on 4 March 1937.
- Courant worked hard to find a post for Friedrichs for he certainly did not have the personality to push himself forward.
- Friedrichs published On certain inequalities and characteristic value problems for analytic functions and for functions of two variables in the Transactions of the American Mathematical Society in 1937.
- In 1948 Courant and Friedrichs published the classic work Supersonic Flow and Shock Waves.
- If Courant did it, then it went to Friedrichs.
- And Friedrichs would look at it and grumble that it wasn't sufficiently exact.
- Then Friedrichs would take it back and say it wasn't precise enough.
- When it came back to Friedrichs, he would put in again some of what he had had before, but not so much.
- During the 1950s Friedrichs wrote five articles on Mathematical aspects of the quantum theory of fields which eventually became part of his book with the same title.
- Friedrichs received many honours.
Born 28 September 1901, Kiel, Germany. Died 31 December 1982, New Rochelle, New York, USA.
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