Das Kalenderblatt 110309

08/03/2011 - 09:35 von WM | Report spam
Krieg der Frösche und der Màuse (96)

In seinen "Reminiscences from Hilbert’s Göttingen" schreibt Courant,
dass Hilbert dafür bekannt war, die Quellen seiner "Inspiration" nicht
zu nennen, eine - wie man heute betont - unwissenschaftliche Attitüde.
Schur und Fredholm fielen ihr zum Opfer und natürlich Brouwer, der
sich als einziger öffentlich darüber zu beschweren wagte, was ihm wohl
zum Verhàngnis wurde.

Courant schreibt dazu: "It was a big insult: at that time to be an
editor of this distinguished journal did not mean anything, but to be
thrown out as an editor, that was really something", und er beschreibt
dann Hilberts "Vergesslichkeit" so:

[…] it was one of his strengths, but also one of his shortcomings,
that he listened very carefully and caught inspiration, but then
frequently forgot from where his inspiration came. There are two
important instances of this. Once he was traveling in a railroad coach
with some colleagues from a congress when he learned that a
mathematician called F. Schur had discovered that the Euclid system of
axioms was not complete, that great classics of mathematics of this
era. Of course, it went far beyond Schur and beyond anything anybody
else had done, but when later reminded that he had heard this about
Schur, Hilbert could not recall it anymore.
A similar thing happened with the theory of integral equations,
also after a mathematical congress. (At this time I must admit that
mathematical congresses still did make some sense. Times have changed.
At such a congress, not 3,000 but maybe 200 people participated.)
Hilbert learned from somebody on the railroad that a man in Sweden,
Mr. Fredholm, had done something very interesting on integral
equations. Hilbert was reminded of what he had learned from papers by
another Swedish mathematician, Helge von Koch {{das ist der mit der
Schneeflockenkurve, dem ersten Fractal}}, and also from what Poincaré
had written about infinite systems of equations. It stirred up some
latent energy in Hilbert; he forgot the source of his enthusiasm very
quickly and started writing his final, basic, and very important
papers on integral equations. So indeed, Hilbert's theory of integral
equations, one of his greatest achievements, was triggered by a bad
memory, I would say.
It is quite interesting that a good memory and profound and broad
knowledge can be a great impediment. Tycho Brahe knew so much and he
had so many data that he could not make the discoveries which Kepler,
who knew much less, could make because he did not know all the sordid
details. Columbus could discover America only because he was so deeply
ignorant that he didn't know that this was not the way to go to India.
Everybody with some education at the time could have known that
Hilbert had a little bit of this spirit of aggressive adventure in
him. "Never mind what all these people have done, I will do it
independently." This was very much all right, but it did create in
Hilbert's students and assistants a feeling of neglect. A certain duty
exists, after all, for a scientist to pay attention to others and give
them credit. The Göttingen group was famous for the lack of a feeling
of responsibility in this respect. We used to call this process -
learning something, forgetting where you learned it, then perhaps
doing it better yourself, and publishing it without quoting correctly
the process of "nostrification". This was a very important concept in
the Göttingen group.

[R. Courant: The Mathematical Intelligencer, 3, 4, 154 -164]
Gruß, WM
 

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#1 Anonym
08/03/2011 - 11:59 | Warnen spam
Hast Du eigentlich auch noch inhaltlich was beizutragen?
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