Person: Sperner, Emanuel
Emanuel Sperner was a German mathematician who worked in the foundations of geometry.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- Sperner attended the Carolinum Gymnasium in Neisse where he received an excellent education.
- In 1925, the year he graduated from the Carolinum Gymnasium in Neisse, Sperner entered the University of Freiburg.
- As was the custom for students at this time, Sperner did not spend the whole of his university career at a single university but, after two semesters, he went to the University of Hamburg.
- Sperner greatly appreciated Blaschke's help and often in later life spoke about how much he owed to his advice.
- Sperner was awarded his doctorate, with distinction, on 15 November 1928 for his thesis Neuer Beweis für die Invarianz der Dimensionszahl und des Gebietes Ⓣ(New proof of the invariance of dimension and number of the region).
- This thesis contained the important result which today is known as Sperner's lemma.
- Sperner published a paper with the same title as his thesis, which he submitted to the Hamburg Mathematical Seminar in June 1928 and it was published later that year.
- The basic 'Sperner Lemma' used for this created great interest in topology: B Knaster, C Kuratowski, and S Mazurkiewicz were able to prove the Brouwer Fixed Point Theorem with its help.
- Sperner himself exerted great influence by applying the ideas he developed too.
- We should give an indication of what 'Sperner's Lemma' states.
- Now this last mentioned paper contains the result which today is known as Sperner's Theorem.
- The fact that Sperner had discovered two results while still a research student which remain of major significance today is quite remarkable.
- In winter 1929-30 Sperner gave his first lecture course 'Analytic geometry and algebra II' at the University of Hamburg.
- Sperner now took over the project, and decided to publish Schreier's lectures with his own contributions added.
- Sperner habilitated at Hamburg in the summer of 1932 after submitting his major work Über die fixpunktfreien Abbildungen der ebene Ⓣ(On the fixed-point-free images of the plane).
- At this stage Sperner was only 26 years old and considered too young to be taken seriously as a university professor so, in August 1932 immediately after habilitating, he travelled to Peking in China taking a route via North America and Japan.
- In 1935 Sperner published "Einführung in die Analytische Geometrie und Algebra II".
- Before continuing to describe Sperner's career, let us move forward to the English translations of these books.
- Introduction to Modern Algebra and Matrix Theory by Schreier and Sperner was published in 1951.
- We return to our description of Sperner's life and career.
- From the spring of 1942, Sperner worked as an assistant in the Navy's Weather Service.
- While still undertaking this war work in 1943, Sperner accepted an appointment as a professor at Strassburg.
- A request was submitted to transfer Sperner to the University of Hamburg where, not only were there staff shortages, but he had contacts with the naval observatory there though his war work.
- Wilhelm Süss was the director of the Oberwolfach Institute and Sperner was appointed as deputy director.
- In 1946 Sperner became a guest professor at the University of Freiburg but continued to work at Oberwolfach.
- The war years had disrupted Sperner's publication record and the first paper he published following the war was Die Ordnungsfunktionen einer Geometrie Ⓣ(The regulatory function of a geometry) (1948).
- This short paper only announced Sperner's ideas and in the following year he published a detailed account of his concept of an order-function, showing which betweenness and separation properties may be algebraically described.
- In 1949 Sperner was appointed as an ordinary professor at the University of Bonn.
- While holding the chair at Hamburg, Sperner spent several periods as a visiting professor in a number of different institutions.
- Sperner had a long association with the German Mathematical Society (DMV).
- Towards the end of 1935 Sperner gave up the position of secretary to become editor of the Jahresbericht, replacing Konrad Knopp who had resigned.
- Sperner continued as editor until the closure of the Jahresbericht at the end of 1943.
- Sperner remained a member of the German Mathematical Society until his death in 1980.
- Sperner received much recognition for his contributions.
- The Black Forest had always been an area that held a special attraction for Sperner and, after he retired, he built a home in Sulzburg-Laufen, near Badenweiler.
Born 9 December 1905, Waltdorf, Upper Silesia (now Poland). Died 31 January 1980, Laufen, Sulzburg, Baden-Württemberg, 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