- Chapter Six: Mathematical Institutions
- Princeton University Press
- book
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C H A P T E R S I X Mathematical Institutions THE lifeblood of any mathematical or scientiﬁc enterprise is communication, which is why some historians of science have devoted so much attention to citation analyses and “invisible colleges.” To sift out chaff, scientiﬁc communication has come to mean by publication, and in this way the science is veriﬁed by colleagues. This is still true today, and was even more true sixty or seventy years ago, before the advent of xerography, “preprints,” electronic mail, and the like. It is natural to ask how mathematical journals were affected by the political pressures of Nazi Germany and how they responded. The three leading German mathematical journals of the 1930s were the Journal für die Reine und Angewandte Mathematik, founded in 1826 by August Crelle and known fondly as “Crelle,” since no other convenient short name existed; the Mathematische Annalen , founded in 1868 by Alfred Clebsch and Carl Neumann; and, perhaps slightly behind, the Mathematische Zeitschrift, founded in 1918. During the Nazi period, the effective chief editors of these publications were Helmut Hasse (“Crelle”), Erich Hecke (Annalen), and Konrad Knopp (Zeitschrift). Whatever the differences in their attitudes toward the Nazi regime may have been, they all were intent on upholding mathematics and protecting it from chicanery and political interference. Furthermore, even mathematicians, like Ludwig Bieberbach or Ernst August Weiss, who were ardent Nazi supporters or party members distinguished between a mathematical fact and the “style” that led to it— the fact participating in mathematical truth like any other, however one might consider the formulation thereof ﬂawed or deplore its style. Thus the way in which mathematical journals might be affected seems problematic at ﬁrst. To thoroughly survey the interactions of the regime with mathematics publications is obviously impossible in a book of this sort, even if all the relevant documents were available. However, as mentioned in chapter 5, copies of some of Hecke’s correspondence concerning the Mathematische Annalen during those years have come into my possession. The incidents described in these letters not only are interesting but also might well be taken as indicative of the sorts of pressure standard mathematical journals faced. The journal Deutsche Mathematik ostensibly devoted to an explicitly Aryan mathematics as distinct from other ethnic sorts, will be studied in detail in chapter 7. In addition to issues directly facing journals, like the publication of ideological articles, the publication of Jewish authors (or even the dedication of articles to Jews), the treatment of non-German authors, and the ﬁnancial support of Jewish former coworkers, this Hecke correspondence touches on two ﬁgures who were principals in other mathematical projects. One was the logician (and theologian) Heinrich Scholz, who created a prominent school of mathematical 230 C H A P T E R S I X logic—strikingly, at the same time as some devotees of an Aryan mathematics were decrying “logic-chopping” and axiomatics. The other was Max Steck, a minor geometer turned historian and philosopher of mathematics, who was central to a project (toward the end of the war) to enhance German cultural prestige through publication of the works of the famous Huguenot mathematician Johann Heinrich Lambert. Steck is an example of a ﬁgure attempting to climb politically in his profession through adoption of Nazi ideology and philosophy . Scholz is an example of the conservative nationalist who bacame disillusioned by Nazi behavior. Indeed, Steck wrote a book on the philosophy of mathematics that called Hilbert’s ideas “Jewish,” and condemned Scholz as well. Scholz reviewed Steck’s book savagely and negatively. The tone of Scholz’s review is not surprising; what is perhaps more surprising is that it was commissioned by Bieberbach and appeared in his Deutsche Mathematik. A primary mathematical institution was naturally the German Mathematical Society and its journal. In 1934 these were involved in a contretemps that is one of the central events in a discussion of mathematicians in the Nazi period. The protagonist in this event was Ludwig Bieberbach, and its dénouement saw him resigning all society ofﬁces and founding Deutsche Mathematik. Another mathematical society of import was the Mathematische Reichsverband, an organization of mathematical societies founded in 1920 and dedicated to promoting the value of mathematics to the general public as well as improving mathematics instruction at both the secondary and university levels. Throughout its existence, its head was the Berlin mathematician Georg Hamel. The MR adapted itself with alacrity to the Nazi situation (after all...

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