Ernst Witt bigraphy, stories - German mathematician

Ernst Witt : biography

June 26, 1911 - July 3, 1991

Ernst Witt (June 26, 1911 – July 3, 1991) was a German mathematician born on the island of Als (German: Alsen). Shortly after his birth, he and his parents moved to China, and he did not return to Europe until he was nine.

After his schooling, Witt went to the University of Freiburg im Breisgau, and the University of Göttingen. He joined the Nazi party and was an active party member.According to Schappacher (letter in Mathematical Intelligencer 1996) it was most certainly him and not Oswald Teichmüller, who attended Emmy Noether's lectures while wearing his SA-uniform. Witt completed his Ph.D. at the University of Göttingen in 1934 with Professor Emmy Noether and later became a lecturer. He was then a member of a team led by Helmut Hasse.

From 1937 until 1979, he taught at the University of Hamburg. In the 1970s Witt claimed that in 1940 he discovered what would eventually be named the "Leech lattice" many years before John Leech discovered it in 1965, but Witt did not publish his discovery and the details of exactly what he did are unclear; see his collected works . He died in Hamburg in 1991.

Witt's work was mainly concerned with the theory of quadratic forms and related subjects such as algebraic function fields.


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