Hilbert, David

BORN 23 Jan 1862, Königsberg (now: Kaliningrad) - DIED 14 Feb 1943, Göttingen, Niedersachsen
GRAVE LOCATION Göttingen, Niedersachsen: Stadtfriedhof, Kasseler Landstrasse (Abteilung 83)

David Hilbert was the son of a judge. He studied at the University of Königsberg where Hermann Minkowki became a close friend. In 1885 he was promoted on his work on invariant properties of special binary forms "Über invariante Eigenschaften spezieller binärer Formen, insbesondere der Kugelfunktionen"). From 1886 to 1895 he worked as a lecturer in Köningsberg. In 1892 he married Käthe Jerosch (1864-1945), the daughter of a merchant. Their son Franz Hilbert (1893-1969) suffered from a mental illness.

Around 1890 he found a solution for Gordan's Problem, that had been formulated twnety years before by Paul Gordan. Gordan didn't accept his solution, but Felix Klein did and his work was published.

In 1895 Klein helped him in obtaining the position of Professor of Mathematics in Göttingen. In Göttingen John von Neumann was his assistant and among his students were Hermann Weyl, Carl Gustav Hempel and Emanuel Lasker, the world champion of chess.

In 1899, in "Grundlagen der Geometrie, he proposed a set of axioms known as Hilbert's axioms that were meant to substitute the axioms of Euclid. In 1900 he formulated a list of 23 unsolved problems for the International Congress of Mathematicians in Paris. In 1902 he became the editor of "Mathematische Annalen" and he held this position until 1839.

In 1920 he started a project known as Hilbert's program. He wanted mathematics to be formulated on a solid and complete logical foundation and thought this was possible. In 1931 Gödel formulated his incompleteness theorem that showed that what Hilbert wanted was impossible.

Until 1912 he worked purely on mathematics, but after 1912 he turned his attention mostly to physics and in 1915 he invited Albert Einstein to Göttingen and both men worked on field equations. Although Einstein and Hilbert published almost at the same time, Hilbert publicly gave the credits to Einstein.

The concept of a Hilbert space, which generalizes the notion of Euclidean space, was named after him by John von Neumann. After Hilbert retired in 1930 his chair was given to Hermann Weyl, who was removed from his position by the nazis in 1933. By the time of his death most off the University's staff had been replaced and only a dozen people were at his funeral, among them Arnold Sommerfield.

Related persons
• was teacher of Born, Max
• was teacher of Heisenberg, Werner
• was pupil of Lindemann, Ferdinand von
• was a friend of Minkowski, Hermann


The grave of David Hilbert at the Stadtfriedhof in Göttingen.
Picture by Androom (27 Aug 2017)


• Aubert, Joachim, Handbuch der Grabstätten berühmten Deutscher, Österreicher und Schweizer, Deutscher Kunstverlag, München, 1973
David Hilbert - Wikipedia

Hildebrand, Bruno

Published: 09 Sep 2017
Last update: 22 Jul 2023