Person: Heilbronn, Hans Arnold
Hans Heilbronn was a German mathematician who worked in algebraic number theory.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- As was the custom of German students at this time, Heilbronn moved from one university to another as he progressed through his studies.
- There Heilbronn began to undertake research in number theory, his studies being directed by Edmund Landau.
- By all accounts Heilbronn seems to have participated in the typical student life of that time.
- In 1930 Heilbronn was appointed as Landau's assistant and he continued to work for his doctorate.
- The problem which Heilbronn worked on for his doctorate was related to a conjecture made by Bertrand in 1845.
- Heilbronn found a simpler proof to that given by Hoheisel and he also proved a stronger result by giving a smaller value of ttt.
- In his thesis Heilbronn also applied his result to primes in an arithmetic progression and to estimates of the sum of the Möbius function.
- This thesis earned Heilbronn his doctorate in 1933 and by the end of that year he had six publications, some of them joint publications with Landau.
- Heilbronn seems, however, to have managed very well.
- On the other hand, those years with Landau were formative ones for Heilbronn.
- In the shorter term, Landau also clearly exerted an influence on Heilbronn's mathematical style ...
- It was not only Landau who formed a high opinion of Heilbronn.
- This was a piece of luck for Heilbronn who realised that he was in an increasingly difficult position in Germany.
- Heilbronn was dismissed from his position as an Assistant at Göttingen and fled to England, arriving in Cambridge with enough money to support him for around six months.
- Of course Heilbronn was not the only German scientist in this position and an Academic Assistance Council had been set up in Britain to deal with such cases.
- The Academic Assistance Council had already been informed about Heilbronn before he fled from Germany since Davenport had written to them in August 1933, after returning from Göttingen, and Hardy had also written in October of that year.
- Mordell arranged accommodation for Heilbronn in Manchester and asked the Academic Assistance Council if they could provide a small salary.
- Even when Hassé, the Head of Department in Bristol, wrote saying that he had partial support offered by the Jewish community around Bristol to support Heilbronn, the Academic Assistance Council could not make up the difference needed.
- Members of the Mathematics department in Bristol then agreed to help out and an invitation went to Heilbronn in the middle of December offering him a temporary post at Bristol.
- Heilbronn gladly accepted the offer from the University of Bristol and he spent about eighteen months there.
- This was a very productive time for Heilbronn who published what turned out to be his most famous result during this time.
- While at Göttingen, Heilbronn had begun a collaboration with E H Linfoot and two papers which Heilbronn wrote soon after arriving in Bristol came out of this collaboration.
- One paper appears under Heilbronn's name alone, the other under the joint authorship of Heilbronn and Linfoot.
- It is worth noting that Heilbronn and Linfoot remained friends throughout their lives but their interests diverged with Linfoot's interests turning from number theory to research in optics and astronomy.
- Of course these important results helped Heilbronn obtain further temporary posts in Britain.
- After Heilbronn moved to Cambridge he began a collaboration with Davenport which started in 1936 and lasted until Davenport's death in 1969, with Heilbronn publishing further joint papers with Davenport up to 1971.
- Heilbronn also published results on the Epstein zeta-function showing that the Riemann Hypothesis fails for this zeta function.
- In April 1939 Heilbronn applied for British citizenship but he was a few days too late to enable the papers to be processed before the start of World War II.
- As a contribution to the war effort Heilbronn organised the Trinity College A.R.P. Fire Service.
- Heilbronn was very interested in sport, especially rowing and tennis, and while at Bristol he coached the University Boat Club.
- In many ways Heilbronn was very successful at Bristol, building up a strong department.
- many other members of the department, notably the number theoreticians, were stimulated by Heilbronn and helped by his active interest in their research.
- The situation in British universities began to worry Heilbronn.
- The required rapid expansion greatly worried Heilbronn who felt that it was inevitable that such a rapid expansion would bring staff into universities who were below standard.
- Heilbronn became a Canadian citizen in 1970 and spent the rest of his life in Canada, taking an active part national role in mathematics there.
- However, Heilbronn was not able to put as much effort into organising the 1974 Congress as he would have liked since he suffered a heart attack in November 1973.
- Finally we should mention that Heilbronn was president of the London Mathematical Society from 1959 to 1961, and a member of the council of the Royal Society of Canada from 1971 to 1973.
Born 8 October 1908, Berlin, Germany. Died 28 April 1975, Toronto, Canada.
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