◀ ▲ ▶History / 20th-century / Person: Waerden, Bartel Leendert van der
Person: Waerden, Bartel Leendert van der
Van der Waerden was a Dutch mathematician best known for his "Modern Algebra" text-book. He also worked on topology and on the history of mathematics.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- In 1911 Theo was awarded the degree of Doctor of Technical Sciences, and was elected as a member of the SDAP (Sociaal-Democratische Arbeiderspartij) to the Provincial government of North Holland in 1910.
- After elementary school, van der Waerden entered the Hogere Burger School of Amsterdam in 1914.
- As a school pupil at the Hogere Burger School, van der Waerden showed remarkable promise and he developed for himself the laws of trigonometry.
- Van der Waerden meticulously took notes in class, and usually that was enough to master all the material.
- Van der Waerden recalled that at night he actually had to think over the material for half an hour and then he had in the end understood it.
- Van der Waerden was an extremely bright student, and he was well aware of this fact.
- During the, rather mediocre, lectures of Van der Waals Jr he could suddenly, with his characteristic stutter, call out: "Professor, what kind of nonsense are you writing down now?" He did not pull such tricks during Brouwer's lectures, but he was one of the few who dared to ask questions.
- Brouwer however, did not like to be questioned and his assistant spoke to van der Waerden asking him to ask no further questions during lectures.
- After taking his first degree in Amsterdam he went to Göttingen for seven months to study under Emmy Noether.
- His name is Van der Waerden, he is very clever and has already published (namely in Invariant Theory).
- At Göttingen, van der Waerden learnt much topology from Hellmuth Kneser.
- Emmy was very pleased with the young Dutchman, "That Van der Waerden would give us much pleasure was correctly foreseen by you.
- Van der Waerden returned to the Netherlands in 1925 where he both wrote his doctoral dissertation, supervised by Hendrik de Vries, and undertook military duty at the marine base in Den Helder.
- However, when later Artin saw the part of the text van der Waerden was writing, he suggested that he write the whole book without any chapters being contributed by Artin.
- This eventually became van der Waerden's famous text Moderne Algebra Ⓣ(Modern Algebra).
- The year 1927 was a busy one for van der Waerden.
- There he continued working on Moderne Algebra Ⓣ(Modern Algebra) which contained much material from Emmy Noether's lectures as well as those of Artin.
- His interaction with Heisenberg and other theoretical physicists led to van der Waerden publishing Die gruppentheoretische Methode in der Quantenmechanik Ⓣ(Group theoretic methods in quantum mechanics) in 1932.
- In these articles, van der Waerden defined precisely the notions of dimension of an algebraic variety, a concept intuitively defined before.
- His work also makes considerable use of the algebraic theory of fields.
- Fortunately, van der Waerden continued his researches, but with the implicit sub-title, "An algebraist looks at algebraic geometry".
- As a result of the experience gained in writing these papers, and in giving various courses of lectures, Professor van der Waerden has produced a work which must sooner or later find a place on every geometer's bookshelves.
- In 1934 van der Waerden joined the main editorial board of Mathematische Annalen.
- This was a difficult time to take on such a role since he came under pressure from the Nazis not to publish papers by Jewish authors.
- Here the situation was equally bad so they accepted an invitation from one of van der Waerden's students to live with her in Bischofswerda, a small town near Dresden.
- The van der Waerdens returned to the Netherlands and lived in the house Theo van der Waerden had built in Laren.
- Freudenthal then managed to obtain a position for van der Waerden working for Shell in Amsterdam on applied mathematics.
- In 1950 Karl Fueter died and van der Waerden was appointed to fill the vacant chair in Zürich in 1951.
- As well as an almost unbelievable range of mathematical research interests, van der Waerden stimulated research in Zürich by supervising over 40 doctoral students during his years there.
- Van der Waerden was to remain in Zürich for the rest of his life.
- Van der Waerden worked on algebraic geometry, abstract algebra, groups, topology, number theory, geometry, combinatorics, analysis, probability theory, mathematical statistics, quantum mechanics, the history of mathematics, the history of modern physics, the history of astronomy and the history of ancient science.
- We have already mentioned Van der Waerden's most famous book, Moderne Algebra published in 1930-1931.
- In 1933 van der Waerden found the exact order and structure of the groups B(3,r)B(3, r)B(3,r).
- Carefully using the best sources available at present, the author acquaints the reader not only with the work of Neugebauer and Heath, but also with that of the philological critics who centered around the "Quellen und Studien." ...
- Since nearly 200 pages of it are given over to modern developments which are only now receiving the attention of historians, this book should earn itself a place as an invaluable guide.
- Almost every section gives readers an indication of where they can go for a further discussion.
- Since one must be cynical of the mathematicians' awareness of those journals, the breadth and generosity of van der Waerden's scholarship will do everyone a favour.
- Van der Waerden's important paper Die Arithmetik der Pythagoreer Ⓣ(The arithmetic of the Pythagoreans) appeared in 1947 followed by Die Astronomie der Pythagoreer Ⓣ(The astronomy of the Pythagoreans) in 1951.
- In 1973 van der Waerden retired from his chair in Zürich.
- He continued to undertake research in the history of mathematics publishing around 60 papers after he retired.
Born 2 February 1903, Amsterdam, Netherlands. Died 12 January 1996, Zürich, Switzerland.
View full biography at MacTutor
Tags relevant for this person:
Algebra, Ancient Greek, Astronomy, Group Theory, Origin Netherlands, Physics, Puzzles And Problems, Special Numbers And Numerals
Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive