Dr Edmund Georg Hermann Landau

Dr Edmund Georg Hermann Landau

Birth
Berlin, Germany
Death 19 Feb 1938 (aged 61)
Berlin, Germany
Burial Weissensee, Pankow, Berlin, Germany
Plot Section K3 (8th grave in the 8th row, counted from the northwestern corner).
Memorial ID 162835844 · View Source
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Edmund Landau, an honorary member of this Society since 1924, was born in Berlin on 14 February 1877, and died there on 19 February 1938. He was the son of Professor Leopold Landau, a well-known gynaecologist. After passing through the "French Gymnasium" in Berlin, he entered the University of Berlin as a student of mathematics, and remained there, apart from two short intervals in Munich and Paris, until 1909. His favourite teacher was Frobenius, who lectured on algebra and the theory of numbers. Landau worked through these lectures very thoroughly, and used his notes of them throughout his life. He took his doctor's degree in 1899, and obtained the "venia legendi", or right to give lectures, in 1901.

In 1909 Landau succeeded Minkowski as ordinary professor in Gottingen. The University of Gottingen was then in its mathematical prime; Klein and Hilbert were Landau's colleagues, and young mathematicians came to Gottingen for inspiration from every country. After the war the University recovered its position quickly, so that Landau had always ample opportunities of training able pupils, and often had a decisive influence on their careers.

In 1933 the political situation forced him to resign his chair. He retired to Berlin, but still lectured occasionally outside Germany. In 1935 he came to Cambridge as Rouse Ball Lecturer, and gave the lectures which he developed later into a Cambridge Tract. He continued to take an active interest in mathematics, and his last lectures were in Brussels in November 1937, only a few months before his sudden death.

...

Landau was the complete master of a most individual style, which it is easy to caricature (as some of his pupils sometimes did in an amusing way), but whose merits are rare indeed. It has two variations, the "old Landau' style", best illustrated by the _Handbuch_, which sweeps on majestically without regard to space, and the "new Landau style" of his post-war days, in which there is an incessant striving for compression. Each of these styles is a model of its kind. There are no mistakes—for Landau took endless trouble, and was one of the most accurate thinkers of his day—no ambiguities, and no omissions; the reader has no skeletons to fill, but is given every detail of every proof. He may, indeed, sometimes wish that a little more had been left to his imagination, since half the truth is often easier to picture vividly than the whole of it, and the very completeness of Landau's presentation sometimes makes it difficult to grasp the "main idea". But Landau would not, or could not, think or write vaguely, and a reader has to read as precisely and conscientiously as Landau wrote. If he will do so, and if he will then compare Landau's
discussion of a theorem with those of other writers, he will be astonished to find how often Landau has given him the shortest, the simplest, and in the long run the most illuminating proof.

...

Landau was certainly one of the hardest workers of our times. His working day often began at 7 a.m. and continued, with short intervals, until midnight. He loved lecturing, more perhaps even than he realized himself; and a lecture from Landau was a very serious thing, since he expected his students to work in the spirit in which he worked himself, and would never tolerate the tiniest rough end or the slightest compromise with the truth. His enforced retirement must have been a terrible blow to him; it was quite pathetic to see his delight when he found himself again in front of a blackboard in Cambridge, and his sorrow when his opportunity came to an end.

No one was ever more passionately devoted to mathematics than Landau, and there was something rather surprisingly impersonal, in a man of such strong personality, in his devotion. Everybody prefers to do things himself, and Landau was no exception; but most of us are at bottom a little jealous of progress by others, while Landau seemed singularly free from such unworthy emotions. He would insist on his own rights, even a little pedantically, but he would insist in the same spirit and with the same rigour on the rights of others.

This was all part of his passion for order in the world of mathematics. He could not stand untidiness in his chosen territory, blunders, obscurity, or vagueness, unproved assertions or half substantiated claims. If X
had proved something, it was up to X to print his proof, and until that happened the something was nothing to Landau. And the man who did his job incompetently, who spoilt Landau's world, received no mercy; that was the unpardonable sin in Landau's eyes, to make a mathematical mess where there had been order before.

Landau received many honours in his lifetime. He was a member of the Academies of Berlin, Gottingen, Halle, Leningrad, and Rome; but no honour seemed to please him quite so much as his election to honorary membership of this society, and he came specially from Germany to attend our sixtieth anniversary dinner. This was natural, since there was no country where his reputation stood quite so high as in England, and none where his work has borne more fruit.


(Excerpt from G.H. Hardy and H. Heilbronn, "Edmund Landau," J. London Math. Soc. 13 (1938) 302-310.)


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  • Created by: Richard Shedenhelm
  • Added: 19 May 2016
  • Find A Grave Memorial 162835844
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Dr Edmund Georg Hermann Landau (14 Feb 1877–19 Feb 1938), Find A Grave Memorial no. 162835844, citing Jüdischer Friedhof Weissensee, Weissensee, Pankow, Berlin, Germany ; Maintained by Richard Shedenhelm (contributor 47878434) .