Otto Toeplitz Memorial Foundation

Otto Toeplitz Memorial Foundation promotes research in the field of history of mathematics

Otto Toeplitz was a professor in Bonn and was committed to the history of mathematics. He is known, for example, for the Toeplitz matrices named after him, where the entries along the first and second diagonals are constant and which have important applications. (Photo: Oberwolfach Photo Collection, Archives of P. Roquette, Heidelberg, CC BY-SA 2.0 DE, via Wikimedia Commons)

Der 27. Stiftungsfonds unter dem Dach der Bonner Universitätsstiftung wurde am 27. Dezember 2021 errichtet

The history of mathematics was his passion: Otto Toeplitz (1881-1940) was not only an important mathematical researcher. He also had a great interest in the history of mathematics which he enriched with important works on mathematics in ancient Greece. Toeplitz came from a family of mathematicians: His grandfather and his father were high school teachers of mathematics. He studied in Wrocław and Berlin, habilitated in Göttingen under Hilbert, and became a full professor in Kiel in 1920. In the year 1928 he was appointed to Bonn.

Toeplitz was co-founder of the journal "Quellen und Studien zur Geschichte der Mathematik". Together with Heinrich Behnke from Münster, he founded the journal "Semesterberichte zur Pflege des Zusammenhangs von Universität und Schule", which continues to exist today. After the enactment of the Nuremberg Race Laws in 1935, Toeplitz was dismissed as a Jew by the National Socialist authorities; he managed to emigrate to Palestine in 1939, but died there in 1940. Bessel-Hagen continued the tradition as best he could, but died himself in 1945.

Bonn as an important center of research in the history of mathematics

After the war, there were always professors at the Mathematical Institute who were interested in the history of mathematics and promoted work on it. For about 30 years, the Institute has again been one of the important places for research in the history of mathematics with the preparation of the internationally acclaimed Hausdorff Edition (10 volumes including an extensive Hausdorff biography); of the Bonn professors, Egbert Brieskorn (1936 - 2013), Stefan Hildebrandt (1936 - 2015), Friedrich Hirzebruch (1927 - 2012) and Walter Purkert are particularly worthy of mention.

The Otto Toeplitz Memorial Foundation has the goal of enabling sophisticated research in the history of mathematics at the Mathematical Institute of the University of Bonn and to familiarize future teachers of mathematics teachers with the history of their subject. The founder is the Munich entrepreneur Gert Purkert. The foundation was established as a so-called consumption endowment fund, i.e. the endowment capital is spent from year to year.

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