Person: Wegner, Udo Hugo Helmuth
Udo Wegner was a German mathematician who lost his post after World War II because of his Nazi connections.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- After attending school in Berlin, Udo Wegner began his university studies at the Friedrich-Wilhelm-University of Berlin in the summer semester of 1921.
- He graduated in 1925 and, from October 1925 to October 1931, Wegner was first an assistant at the Astronomisches Rechen-Institut ("Astronomical Calculation Institute") at Berlin-Dahlem, which at that time was part of the University of Berlin.
- In 1928 Wegner, in collaboration with Findlay Freundlich and Eberhard Hopf, published On the integral equation for radiative equilibrium in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
- Wegner also spent a period as an assistant at the University of Bonn, and finally at the University of Göttingen.
- During the years 1929-31 at Göttingen, Wegner was Richard Courant's assistant.
- What was known in 1931 led to some turmoil, but Wegner's appointment was not prevented.
- Wegner had been a supporter of this party before this and so for him this promised to help him in his career.
- Wegner joined the SA (the Sturmabteilung which functioned as the original paramilitary wing of the Nazi Party) in 1933, but there is no evidence he took an active part in SA activities.
- Wegner was a strong candidate but in the end it was decided that, despite his strong support of the National Socialists, his mathematical ability was not suitable for a chair at Göttingen.
- The chair was then offered to Wegner who accepted it on 19 November 1936.
- In a normal appointment process, as was customary prior to National Socialism, Wegner would certainly not have been appointed at Heidelberg.
- Herbert Seifert who was also a mathematics professor at Heidelberg, stated in 1947 that Wegner would have had little chance of being appointed to Heidelberg in a properly conducted appointment process.
- However, they must also be seen in the light of the comments made by Wilhelm Süss about Wegner's character.
- Süss claimed that Wegner was a pathological liar who was mistrusted and shunned by his colleagues.
- The dispute between Wegner and Seifert over Helmut Joachim Fischer's habilitation thesis was the first of several arguments between the two.
- The next confrontation came in 1938 when Wegner invited Ludwig Bieberbach to lecture in Heidelberg.
- The invitation to Bieberbach to give this lecture was typed above the signatures of Wegner and Seifert.
- However, in January 1940 Seifert made a visit to Braunschweig and, while he was absent, Wegner approved Ringleb's habilitation.
- Wegner tried hard to improve the situation arguing that Heidelberg, the oldest German university, should not fall behind universities like Frankfurt and Tübingen.
- Wegner tried to create an aeronautical research institute at Heidelberg in 1943 but despite drawing up ambitious plans nothing came of the idea.
- Wegner himself was working on applications of function theoretical methods to fluid dynamics, looking at applications of conformal mappings to aeronautical research.
- Up until 1943 Wegner worked on this on his own but after this time others were added to his team doing work considered important for the war effort.
- Despite the difficulties and staff shortages, Wegner was able to maintain the range of lectures offered to the mathematics students at Heidelberg.
- Wegner invited Blaschke to Heidelberg saying he was sorely needed there and could participate in military research.
- Wegner was arrested at his home on 4 April 1945 and detained, but released in May 1945 because of serious illness.
- The charges against Wegner were listed, he was charged with criminal acts and held under house arrest.
- After settlement of the charges through the denazification proceedings, Wegner went to France.
- In 1951 Wegner lectured at the Technische Hochschule in Darmstadt and in 1952 at the Technische Hochschule in Karlsruhe.
- Only in 1956 did Wegner get a permanent academic position when he was appointed as an Ordinary Professor and Director of the Institute of Applied Mechanics at the University of Saarbrücken.
- Wegner was elected to the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences in 1941.
- In 1972, to celebrate his 70th birthday, Beiträge zur Mechanik (Festschrift Udo Wegner) Ⓣ(Contributions to mechanics (Festschrift for Wegner)) was published by the University of Stuttgart.
- This contains dedications and eleven articles dedicated to Wegner on his 70th birthday.
Born 4 June 1902, Berlin, Germany. Died 25 June 1989, Heidelberg, Germany.
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