Person: Hiebert, Erwin Nick
Erwin Hiebert was a Canadian historian and philosopher of science.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- After working on a farm Cornelius Hiebert became a distributor of Bibles and other religious material travelling round various states.
- Erwin was brought up in a number of different places.
- Having saved enough to begin his college education, Hiebert enrolled at Tabor College in Hillsboro, Kansas.
- We note that both Tabor College and Bethel College are affiliated to the Mennonite Brethern Church so were natural places for Hiebert to study.
- Hiebert's main subjects at these colleges had been chemistry and mathematics.
- After marrying they moved to Whiting, Indiana where Hiebert was employed as a Research Chemist at Standard Oil Company of Indiana.
- After the end of the war, Hiebert moved to Washington, D.C. where he was employed as Assistant to the Chief of the Scientific Branch of the War Department General Staff.
- Hiebert was still keen on studying and he did a second Master's degree, this time in physical chemistry at the University of Chicago.
- If the reader is familiar with Hiebert's main contributions to science, they will know that he was a major figure in the history of science.
- Many of the leading historians of science studied for their doctorate under Hiebert.
- At the University of Wisconsin at Madison Hiebert studied for his doctorate, beginning in 1950, on the History of Science and Physical Chemistry.
- During this period at Wisconsin, Hiebert was an American Scholar in Kabul (in summer 1961 at the International Education Exchange Program), was a Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton, New Jersey in 1961-62 and again in 1968-69, Visiting Professor at the University of Tübingen, Germany in 1964-65, and Visiting Professor at Harvard in 1965.
- That, as Erwin told me in a letter of January 29, precipitated a flurry of activity at Wisconsin, with all sorts of people trying to persuade him to remain there.
- Throughout the process of writing my senior thesis on Poincaré there lurked in the back of my mind, the shadowy figure of Erwin Hiebert who would, in the end, evaluate my efforts.
- Erwin is a master at serious disagreement without personal cost; he will argue passionately against your point of view, even while keeping it clear throughout that it is not at your expense that you are disagreeing.
- Erwin did not merely model for his students how to interact with him but, also, how to work with each other.
- My dissertation, like many others, was brought to completion in the context of weekly lunches among Erwin's finishing students.
- Hiebert was Chairman of the Department of History of Science at Harvard University from 1977 to 1984.
- During his years at Harvard, Hiebert made many visits abroad as a Visiting Lecturer or Visiting Scholar.
- In his opening discussion Hiebert reviews the growth of knowledge of nuclear science during the early 20th century.
- Of the many honours that Hiebert received we mention that he was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1975.
- A memorial service for Hiebert was held at Memorial Church in Harvard Yard on 17 February 2013.
Born 27 May 1919, Waldheim, Saskatchewan, Canada. Died 28 November 2012, Waltham, Massachusetts, 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