Transcending Tradition (CLOSED)

Jewish Mathematicians

Opening: November 15, 2011

Exhibition Designer: Atelier Markgraph, Frankfurt am Main

Transcending Tradition – Jewish Mathematicians in German-Speaking Academic Culture (exhibition closed on December 13, 2011)

The exhibition explores the works, lives and activities of Jewish mathematicians in German-speaking countries during the period between the legal and political emancipation of the Jews in the 19th century and their persecution in Nazi Germany. It highlights the important role Jewish mathematicians played in all areas of mathematical culture during the German Empire and the Weimar Republic, and recalls their emigration, flight or death after 1933.

A first version of the exhibition was opened on the occasion of the annual conferences of the German Mathematical Society in autumn 2006 in Bonn and in spring 2007 in Berlin. With the financial support of the Deutsche Telekom Foundation and in cooperation with the Jewish Museum in Frankfurt, a re-designed travelling exhibition has been on display in various places in Germany since May 2008. It has received an award from the German Ministry for Education and Research.

An English version of the exhibition has been produced with the support of three German ministries: the Federal Ministry for Education and Research, the Federal Foreign Office, and the Ministry of Science of North Rhine-Westphalia. This international version will be travelling to Israel in 2011-12, where it will be displayed in three central institutes: Beit Hatfutsot, the Museum of the Jewish People, The Technion in Haifa and the National Library in Jerusalem.

An International conference Trends and Perspectives in Mathematics will be held at Beit Hatfutsot, in conjunction with the opening of the exhibition on November 14-15, 2011.

On display until December 13, 2011.

Project Team:

The Exhibition was designed by a group of seven historians of mathematics in cooperation with the Jewish Museum Frankfurt and the German Mathematical society.

Head of the international project: Prof. Moritz Epple, Goethe Universität Frankfurt am Main

Project Manager: Dr. Ruti Ungar, Frankfurt

Authors of the Exhibition: Birgit Bergmann, Frankfurt Prof. Moritz Epple, Frankfurt Prof. Walter Purkert, Bonn Prof. Volker R. Remmert, Wuppertal Prof. David E. Rowe, Mainz Prof. Erhard Scholz, Wuppertal Dr. Annette Vogt, Berlin

Beit Hatfutsot coordinator: Geula Goldberg

Designer: Atelier Markgraph, Frankfurt am Main

Sponsors:

The German Federal Ministry for Education and Research

The German Foreign Office

The Ministry of Science of North Rhine-Westphalia Deutsche Telekom Foundation

The Exhibition was designed by a group of seven historians of mathematics in cooperation with the Jewish Museum Frankfurt and the German Mathematical society.

Exhibition Concept:

From 1933 onwards, Jewish mathematicians in Germany lost their jobs and were forced to emigrate. Those who did not escape on time faced concentration camps and death. Some of those who managed to flee the country or survive the camps were able to establish new careers in their host countries. However, others suffered greatly from losses caused by their forced exile and never managed to rebuild their lives. The exhibition aims to showcase the impressive technical and professional scope of the contribution made by Jewish mathematicians to the development of mathematical culture in the German states before 1933. Therefore, the exhibition focuses on the time between the legal and political emancipation of Jews in the 19th century and the rise of the Nazis, a time in which Jewish mathematicians in German-speaking countries achieved their most prominent successes.

For decades before their expulsion and extermination Jewish mathematicians were important parts of the German-speaking mathematical world. “Advancement through education”, which characterized German-Jewish life in the 19th and early 20th century, was especially successful in the field of mathematics. Of the 94 full professorships in mathematics at German institutes of higher education at the end of the Weimar Republic, as many as 28 were at least temporarily occupied by scholars who were Jewish or of Jewish descent. If we add the number of scholars who as a result of anti-Semitism or other factors were not permitted to qualify for a professorship, and of the many Jewish mathematicians at German-speaking universities outside Germany, it becomes clear that mathematical life pre-1933 was to a considerable extent a German-Jewish mathematical life. Jewish mathematicians contributed to scientific research, to the professional institutions of mathematics, and to all layers of mathematical culture, from academic to popular.

The exhibition highlights two points in particular. First, during the period in question, there was probably no part of the academic culture of mathematics in which Jewish mathematicians were not actively involved. In the Wilhelmine Empire and the Weimar Republic Jewish mathematicians worked in research, teaching, and publishing, they were active in professional organizations like the German Mathematical Society, and they participated in the public discourse on mathematics. They contributed to shaping the German-speaking mathematical culture of their time. Second, their activities were so varied and multifaceted, that every stereotype of a “Jewish” style in mathematics is immediately refuted.