Richard Courant
Richard Courant  

Born  Lublinitz, German Empire 
January 8, 1888
Died  January 27, 1972 New Rochelle, New York 
(aged 84)
Nationality  German American 
Fields  Mathematics 
Institutions  University of Göttingen University of Münster University of Cambridge New York University 
Alma mater  University of Göttingen 
Doctoral advisor  David Hilbert 
Doctoral students  Herbert Busemann William Feller Kurt Friedrichs Fritz John Joseph Keller Martin Kruskal Anneli Lax Hans Lewy Otto Neugebauer Franz Rellich 
Known for  Courant number Courant minimax principle Courant–Friedrichs–Lewy condition 
Richard Courant (January 8, 1888 – January 27, 1972) was a German mathematician. He is best known by the general public for the book What is Mathematics?, cowritten with Herbert Robbins, which was praised by Albert Einstein:
"A lucid representation of the fundamental concepts and methods of the whole field of mathematics...Easily understandable."
Contents
Career
Courant was born in Lublinitz, in the Prussian Province of Silesia. During his youth his parents moved often, including to Glatz, then to Breslau and in 1905 to Berlin. He stayed in Breslau and entered the university there, then continued his studies at the University of Zürich and the University of Göttingen. He became David Hilbert's assistant in Göttingen and obtained his doctorate there in 1910. He was obliged to serve in World War I but was wounded shortly after enlisting and dismissed from the military. He continued his research in Göttingen and then engaged a twoyear period at the University of Münster as professor of mathematics. There he founded the Mathematical Institute, which he headed as director from 1928 until 1933.
Courant left Germany in 1933, earlier than many Jewish émigrés. While he was classified by the Nazis as a Jew, his previous service as a frontline soldier exempted him from losing his position for this particular reason at the time; however his public membership in the socialdemocratic left was reason enough (for the Nazis) for dismissal.[1]
In 1936, after one year at Cambridge Courant accepted a professorship at New York University in New York City. There he founded an institute for graduate studies in applied mathematics. The Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences (as it was renamed in 1964) is now one of the most respected research centers in applied mathematics.
Courant and David Hilbert authored the influential textbook Methods of Mathematical Physics which, with its revised editions, is still current and widely used since its publication in 1924. With Herbert Robbins he coauthored a popular overview of higher mathematics, intended for the general public, titled What is Mathematics?.
Courant's name is also attached to the finite element method,^{1} with his numerical treatment of the plain torsion problem for multiplyconnected domains, published in 1943.^{2} This method is now one of the ways to solve partial differential equations numerically. Courant is a namesake of the Courant–Friedrichs–Lewy condition and the Courant minimax principle.
Courant died in New Rochelle, New York.^{3}
Perspective on mathematics
Commenting upon his analysis of experimental results from inlaboratory soap film formations, Courant believed that the existence of a physical solution does not obviate the need for mathematical proof. Here is a quote from Courant on his mathematical perspective:
Empirical evidence can never establish mathematical existencenor can the mathematician's demand for existence be dismissed by the physicist as useless rigor. Only a mathematical existence proof can ensure that the mathematical description of a physical phenomenon is meaningful.^{4}
Personal life
In 1919 Courant married Nerina (Nina) Runge, the daughter of the Göttingen professor for Applied Mathematics, Carl Runge. Richard and Nerina had four children: Ernest, a particle physicist and innovator in particle accelerators; Gertrude (*1922), a PhD biologist and wife of the mathematician Jürgen Moser (1928–1999); Hans, a physicist who participated in the Manhattan Project; and Leonore, a professional musician and wife of the mathematician Jerome Berkowitz (1928–1998).^{5}^{6}
Publications
 Differential and Integral Calculus, 2 volumes (Vol 1: ISBN 4871878384, Vol 2: ISBN 487187835X)
 Introduction to Calculus and Analysis, 3 volumes (Vol 1: ISBN 354065058X, Vol 2: ISBN 3540665692, Vol 3: ISBN 3540665706)
 Methods of Mathematical Physics
 What is Mathematics?
 with K. O. Friedrichs: Supersonic Flow and Shock Waves. New York: Interscience. 1948.^{7} Corr. 5th printing. New York: SpringerVerlag. 1999. ISBN 0387902325.
References
 ^ Giuseppe Pelosi (2007). "The finiteelement method, Part I: R. L. Courant: Historical Corner". doi:10.1109/MAP.2007.376627.
 ^ Courant, Richard (1943). "Variational methods for the solution of problems of equilibrium and vibrations". Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society.
 ^ NY Times Obituary "Dr. Richard Courant Dies at 84; Influential Mathematics Scholar; Organizer and Ex. Direcgor of Institute at N.Y.U. Aided Research and Teaching"
 ^ The Parsimonious Universe, Stefan Hildebrandt & Anthony Tromba, SpringerVerlag, 1996, page 148
 ^ Edwin Rosenberg (November 2008). MAA Focus (MAA): 16–18 http://www.maa.org/pubs/nov08web.pdf
url=
missing title (help).  ^ "The Manhattan Project and the Met". Scientific American. 20081231.
 ^ Lin, C. C. (1951). "Review: Supersonic flow and shock waves, by R. Courant and K. O. Friedrichs". Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 57 (1, Part 1): 85–87.
Bibliography
 Medawar, Jean: Pyke, David (2012). Hitler's Gift: The True Story of the Scientists Expelled by the Nazi Regime (Paperback). New York: Arcade Publishing. ISBN 9781611457094.
External links
 Richard Courant at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
 O'Connor, John J.; Robertson, Edmund F., "Richard Courant", MacTutor History of Mathematics archive, University of St Andrews.
 Biographical memoir – by Peter Lax
 Oral History interview transcript with Richard Courant 9 May 1962, American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library and Archives
 National Academy of Sciences Biographical Memoir

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