Ferdinand von Lindemann

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Ferdinand von Lindemann
Carl Louis Ferdinand von Lindemann
Born (1852-04-12)April 12, 1852
Hanover, German Confederation
Died March 6, 1939(1939-03-06) (aged 86)
Munich, Germany
Residence Germany
Nationality German
Fields Mathematician
Institutions Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
Alma mater Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg
Doctoral advisor C. Felix Klein
Doctoral students Charles Hamilton Ashton
Franz Fuchs
Emil Hilb
David Hilbert
Martin Kutta
Alfred Loewy
Hermann Minkowski
Oskar Perron
Arthur Rosenthal
Arnold Sommerfeld
Josef Wagner
Known for Proving π is a transcendental number

Carl Louis Ferdinand von Lindemann (April 12, 1852 – March 6, 1939) was a German mathematician, noted for his proof, published in 1882, that π (pi) is a transcendental number, meaning it is not a root of any polynomial with rational coefficients.

Life and education

Lindemann was born in Hanover, the capital of the Kingdom of Hanover. His father, Ferdinand Lindemann, taught modern languages at a Gymnasium in Hanover. His mother, Emilie Crusius, was the daughter of the Gymnasium's headmaster. The family later moved to Schwerin, where young Ferdinand attended school.

He studied mathematics at Göttingen, Erlangen, and Munich. At Erlangen he received a doctorate, supervised by Felix Klein, on non-Euclidean geometry. Lindemann subsequently taught in Würzburg and at the University of Freiburg. During his time in Freiburg, Lindemann devised his proof that π is a transcendental number (see Lindemann–Weierstrass theorem). After his time in Freiburg, Lindemann transferred to the University of Königsberg. While a professor in Königsberg, Lindemann acted as supervisor for the doctoral theses of the now renowned mathematicians David Hilbert, Hermann Minkowski, and Arnold Sommerfeld.

Transcendence proof

In 1882, Lindemann published the result for which he is best known, the transcendence of π. His methods were similar to those used nine years earlier by Charles Hermite to show that e, the base of natural logarithms, is transcendental. Before the publication of Lindemann's proof, it was known that if π was transcendental, then it would be impossible to square the circle by compass and straightedge.

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