The Jewish Contribution to Math


Commentary by Dr. Gerhard Falk


Jews in Mathematics

It is unlikely that anyone would be surprised to learn that a majority of outstanding mathematicians are and were Jews.

This is true because Jews have contributed far more than can be expected in views of the microscopic size of the Jewish community, which is much smaller than its contribution to all branches of human knowledge.

Mathematics may be divided into arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and calculus.

These areas of mathematics present the student of this branch of human knowledge with a  beautiful and most enjoyable opportunity to understand Gds universe. Albert Einstein wrote: I investigate Gds universe, for God does not play dice with the universe. Another attractive aspect of mathematics is that it is non-political and can be enjoyed by anyone without respect to religion, gender, nationality, or age. Therefore mathematics has been advanced by people of all nationalities. An excellent example is the invention of calculus by Newton in England and Leibniz in Germany. They lived at the same time in the 17th century and invented calculus independently. This is true because the culture base led to these inventions and would have been found by others had Newton and Leibniz never lived. Both depended on the work of numerous predecessors.

In sum, it may be said that despite the myriad superstitions of atheists involved in the study of mathematics, learning arithmetic, geometry, algebra, and calculus is a religious experience.

The history of mathematics begins with Near Eastern astrologers who studied the heavens because they believed that the stars predicted human events. In the course of seeking to enlist the stars in the affairs of men, these early students discovered that the stars appeared again and again in constellations, which returned year after year. That led to the discovery that it was possible to study the appearances of the stars and planets and that much can be learned about our environment from the use of mathematics. Many sciences and engineering benefitted from methods developed by Jews like Boris Galerkin and Richard Courant and John (von) Neumann. Linear programming was developed by Leonid Kantorovich, and  fifty-five percent of all Lifetime Achievement Awards in Mathematics were attained by Jews.

If you would like to join in the fun, begin by reading one of the numerous History of Mathematics books. The more recent such books are by Carl Boyer, David Burton, John Stillwell, and Clifford Pickover.

S halom u'vracha.  

 Dr. Gerhard Falk is the author of numerous publications, including The American Jewish Community in the 20th and 21st Century (2021).

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