TheInfoList

OR:

David Hilbert (; ; 23 January 1862 – 14 February 1943) was a German mathematician, one of the most influential mathematicians of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Hilbert discovered and developed a broad range of fundamental ideas in many areas, including invariant theory, the
calculus of variations The calculus of variations (or Variational Calculus) is a field of mathematical analysis that uses variations, which are small changes in functions and functionals, to find maxima and minima of functionals: mappings from a set of functions t ...
,
commutative algebra Commutative algebra, first known as ideal theory, is the branch of algebra that studies commutative rings, their ideals, and modules over such rings. Both algebraic geometry and algebraic number theory build on commutative algebra. Prom ...
,
algebraic number theory Algebraic number theory is a branch of number theory that uses the techniques of abstract algebra to study the integers, rational numbers, and their generalizations. Number-theoretic questions are expressed in terms of properties of algebraic o ...
, the
foundations of geometry Foundations of geometry is the study of geometries as axiomatic systems. There are several sets of axioms which give rise to Euclidean geometry or to non-Euclidean geometries. These are fundamental to the study and of historical importance, bu ...
,
spectral theory In mathematics, spectral theory is an inclusive term for theories extending the eigenvector and eigenvalue theory of a single square matrix to a much broader theory of the structure of operators in a variety of mathematical spaces. It is a result ...
of operators and its application to integral equations,
mathematical physics Mathematical physics refers to the development of mathematical methods for application to problems in physics. The '' Journal of Mathematical Physics'' defines the field as "the application of mathematics to problems in physics and the developm ...
, and the foundations of mathematics (particularly
proof theory Proof theory is a major branchAccording to Wang (1981), pp. 3–4, proof theory is one of four domains mathematical logic, together with model theory, axiomatic set theory, and recursion theory. Barwise (1978) consists of four corresponding part ...
Georg Cantor Georg Ferdinand Ludwig Philipp Cantor ( , ;  – January 6, 1918) was a German mathematician. He played a pivotal role in the creation of set theory, which has become a fundamental theory in mathematics. Cantor established the importance o ...
's set theory and transfinite numbers. In 1900, he presented a collection of problems that set the course for much of the mathematical research of the 20th century. Hilbert and his students contributed significantly to establishing rigor and developed important tools used in modern mathematical physics. Hilbert is known as one of the founders of proof theory and
mathematical logic Mathematical logic is the study of formal logic within mathematics. Major subareas include model theory, proof theory, set theory, and recursion theory. Research in mathematical logic commonly addresses the mathematical properties of forma ...
.

# Life

## Early life and education

Hilbert, the first of two children and only son of Otto and Maria Therese (Erdtmann) Hilbert, was born in the Province of Prussia,
Kingdom of Prussia The Kingdom of Prussia (german: Königreich Preußen, ) was a German kingdom that constituted the state of Prussia between 1701 and 1918.Marriott, J. A. R., and Charles Grant Robertson. ''The Evolution of Prussia, the Making of an Empire''. ...
, either in
Königsberg Königsberg (, ) was the historic Prussian city that is now Kaliningrad, Russia. Königsberg was founded in 1255 on the site of the ancient Old Prussian settlement ''Twangste'' by the Teutonic Knights during the Northern Crusades, and was ...
(according to Hilbert's own statement) or in Wehlau (known since 1946 as Znamensk) near Königsberg where his father worked at the time of his birth. In late 1872, Hilbert entered the Friedrichskolleg Gymnasium (''Collegium fridericianum'', the same school that
Immanuel Kant Immanuel Kant (, , ; 22 April 1724 – 12 February 1804) was a German philosopher and one of the central Enlightenment thinkers. Born in Königsberg, Kant's comprehensive and systematic works in epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, and ...
had attended 140 years before); but, after an unhappy period, he transferred to (late 1879) and graduated from (early 1880) the more science-oriented Wilhelm Gymnasium. Upon graduation, in autumn 1880, Hilbert enrolled at the University of Königsberg, the "Albertina". In early 1882, Hermann Minkowski (two years younger than Hilbert and also a native of Königsberg but had gone to Berlin for three semesters), returned to Königsberg and entered the university. Hilbert developed a lifelong friendship with the shy, gifted Minkowski.

## Career

In 1884, Adolf Hurwitz arrived from Göttingen as an
Extraordinarius ''Extraordinarius'' is a genus of South American huntsman spiders. It was first described by C. A. Rheims in 2019, and it has only been found in Brazil. Species it contains four species: *'' E. andrematosi'' Rheims, 2019 ( type) – Brazil *'' ...
(i.e., an associate professor). An intense and fruitful scientific exchange among the three began, and Minkowski and Hilbert especially would exercise a reciprocal influence over each other at various times in their scientific careers. Hilbert obtained his doctorate in 1885, with a dissertation, written under Ferdinand von Lindemann, titled ''Über invariante Eigenschaften spezieller binärer Formen, insbesondere der Kugelfunktionen'' ("On the invariant properties of special binary forms, in particular the spherical harmonic functions"). Hilbert remained at the University of Königsberg as a ''Privatdozent'' ( senior lecturer) from 1886 to 1895. In 1895, as a result of intervention on his behalf by Felix Klein, he obtained the position of Professor of Mathematics at the
University of Göttingen The University of Göttingen, officially the Georg August University of Göttingen, (german: Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, known informally as Georgia Augusta) is a public research university in the city of Göttingen, Germany. Founded ...
. During the Klein and Hilbert years, Göttingen became the preeminent institution in the mathematical world. He remained there for the rest of his life.

## Göttingen school

Among Hilbert's students were
Hermann Weyl Hermann Klaus Hugo Weyl, (; 9 November 1885 – 8 December 1955) was a German mathematician, theoretical physicist and philosopher. Although much of his working life was spent in Zürich, Switzerland, and then Princeton, New Jersey, he is asso ...
,
chess Chess is a board game for two players, called White and Black, each controlling an army of chess pieces in their color, with the objective to checkmate the opponent's king. It is sometimes called international chess or Western chess to dist ...
Ernst Zermelo Ernst Friedrich Ferdinand Zermelo (, ; 27 July 187121 May 1953) was a German logician and mathematician, whose work has major implications for the foundations of mathematics. He is known for his role in developing Zermelo–Fraenkel axiomatic ...
, and
Carl Gustav Hempel Carl Gustav "Peter" Hempel (January 8, 1905 – November 9, 1997) was a German writer, philosopher, logician, and epistemologist. He was a major figure in logical empiricism, a 20th-century movement in the philosophy of science. He is e ...
.
John von Neumann John von Neumann (; hu, Neumann János Lajos, ; December 28, 1903 – February 8, 1957) was a Hungarian-American mathematician, physicist, computer scientist, engineer and polymath. He was regarded as having perhaps the widest c ...
was his assistant. At the University of Göttingen, Hilbert was surrounded by a social circle of some of the most important mathematicians of the 20th century, such as Emmy Noether and Alonzo Church. Among his 69 Ph.D. students in Göttingen were many who later became famous mathematicians, including (with date of thesis): Otto Blumenthal (1898), Felix Bernstein (1901),
Hermann Weyl Hermann Klaus Hugo Weyl, (; 9 November 1885 – 8 December 1955) was a German mathematician, theoretical physicist and philosopher. Although much of his working life was spent in Zürich, Switzerland, and then Princeton, New Jersey, he is asso ...
(1908),
Richard Courant Richard Courant (January 8, 1888 – January 27, 1972) was a German American mathematician. He is best known by the general public for the book '' What is Mathematics?'', co-written with Herbert Robbins. His research focused on the areas of r ...
(1910), Erich Hecke (1910), Hugo Steinhaus (1911), and Wilhelm Ackermann (1925). Between 1902 and 1939 Hilbert was editor of the '' Mathematische Annalen'', the leading mathematical journal of the time.

## Personal life

In 1892, Hilbert married Käthe Jerosch (1864–1945), who was the daughter of a Königsberg merchant, an outspoken young lady with an independence of mind that matched ilbert's" While at Königsberg they had their one child, (1893–1969). Franz suffered throughout his life from an undiagnosed mental illness. His inferior intellect was a terrible disappointment to his father and this misfortune was a matter of distress to the mathematicians and students at Göttingen. Hilbert considered the mathematician Hermann Minkowski to be his "best and truest friend". Hilbert was baptized and raised a
Calvinist Calvinism (also called the Reformed Tradition, Reformed Protestantism, Reformed Christianity, or simply Reformed) is a major branch of Protestantism that follows the theological tradition and forms of Christian practice set down by John C ...
in the Prussian Evangelical Church.The Hilberts had, by this time, left the Calvinist Protestant church in which they had been baptized and married. – Reid 1996, p.91 He later left the Church and became an
agnostic Agnosticism is the view or belief that the existence of God, of the divine or the supernatural is unknown or unknowable. (page 56 in 1967 edition) Another definition provided is the view that "human reason is incapable of providing sufficien ...
. David Hilbert seemed to be agnostic and had nothing to do with theology proper or even religion. Constance Reid tells a story on the subject:
The Hilberts had by this time
round 1902 Round or rounds may refer to: Mathematics and science * The contour of a closed curve or surface with no sharp corners, such as an ellipse, circle, rounded rectangle, cant, or sphere * Rounding, the shortening of a number to reduce the num ...
left the Reformed Protestant Church in which they had been baptized and married. It was told in Göttingen that when avid Hilbert's sonFranz had started to school he could not answer the question, "What religion are you?" (1970, p. 91)
In the 1927 Hamburg address, Hilbert asserted: "mathematics is pre-suppositionless science (die Mathematik ist eine voraussetzungslose Wissenschaft)" and "to found it I do not need a good God ( ihrer Begründung brauche ich weder den lieben Gott)" (1928, S. 85; van Heijenoort, 1967, p. 479). However, from Mathematische Probleme (1900) to Naturerkennen und Logik (1930) he placed his quasi-religious faith in the human spirit and in the power of pure thought with its beloved child– mathematics. He was deeply convinced that every mathematical problem could be solved by pure reason: in both mathematics and any part of natural science (through mathematics) there was "no ignorabimus" (Hilbert, 1900, S. 262; 1930, S. 963; Ewald, 1996, pp. 1102, 1165). That is why finding an inner absolute grounding for mathematics turned into Hilbert's life-work. He never gave up this position, and it is symbolic that his words "wir müssen wissen, wir werden wissen" ("we must know, we shall know") from his 1930 Königsberg address were engraved on his tombstone. Here, we meet a ghost of departed theology (to modify George Berkeley's words), for to absolutize human cognition means to identify it tacitly with a divine one. —
He also argued that mathematical truth was independent of the existence of God or other ''
a priori ("from the earlier") and ("from the later") are Latin phrases used in philosophy to distinguish types of knowledge, justification, or argument by their reliance on empirical evidence or experience. knowledge is independent from current ex ...
'' assumptions."Mathematics is a presuppositionless science. To found it I do not need God, as does Kronecker, or the assumption of a special faculty of our understanding attuned to the principle of mathematical induction, as does Poincaré, or the primal intuition of Brouwer, or, finally, as do Russell and Whitehead, axioms of infinity, reducibility, or completeness, which in fact are actual, contentual assumptions that cannot be compensated for by consistency proofs." David Hilbert, ''Die Grundlagen der Mathematik''
Hilbert's program, 22C:096, University of Iowa
When
Galileo Galilei Galileo di Vincenzo Bonaiuti de' Galilei (15 February 1564 – 8 January 1642) was an Italian astronomer, physicist and engineer, sometimes described as a polymath. Commonly referred to as Galileo, his name was pronounced (, ). He ...
was criticized for failing to stand up for his convictions on the Heliocentric theory, Hilbert objected: "But alileowas not an idiot. Only an idiot could believe that scientific truth needs martyrdom; that may be necessary in religion, but scientific results prove themselves in due time."

## Later years

Like
Albert Einstein Albert Einstein ( ; ; 14 March 1879 – 18 April 1955) was a German-born theoretical physicist, widely acknowledged to be one of the greatest and most influential physicists of all time. Einstein is best known for developing the theor ...
, Hilbert had closest contacts with the Berlin Group whose leading founders had studied under Hilbert in Göttingen ( Kurt Grelling, Hans Reichenbach and Walter Dubislav). Around 1925, Hilbert developed
pernicious anemia Pernicious anemia is a type of vitamin B12 deficiency anemia, a disease in which not enough red blood cells are produced due to the malabsorption of vitamin B12. Malabsorption in pernicious anemia results from the lack or loss of intrinsic ...
, a then-untreatable vitamin deficiency whose primary symptom is exhaustion; his assistant Eugene Wigner described him as subject to "enormous fatigue" and how he "seemed quite old," and that even after eventually being diagnosed and treated, he "was hardly a scientist after 1925, and certainly not a Hilbert." Hilbert lived to see the Nazis purge many of the prominent faculty members at
University of Göttingen The University of Göttingen, officially the Georg August University of Göttingen, (german: Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, known informally as Georgia Augusta) is a public research university in the city of Göttingen, Germany. Founded ...
in 1933. Those forced out included
Hermann Weyl Hermann Klaus Hugo Weyl, (; 9 November 1885 – 8 December 1955) was a German mathematician, theoretical physicist and philosopher. Although much of his working life was spent in Zürich, Switzerland, and then Princeton, New Jersey, he is asso ...
(who had taken Hilbert's chair when he retired in 1930), Emmy Noether and Edmund Landau. One who had to leave Germany,
Paul Bernays Paul Isaac Bernays (17 October 1888 – 18 September 1977) was a Swiss mathematician who made significant contributions to mathematical logic, axiomatic set theory, and the philosophy of mathematics. He was an assistant and close collaborator of ...
, had collaborated with Hilbert in mathematical logic, and co-authored with him the important book '' Grundlagen der Mathematik'' (which eventually appeared in two volumes, in 1934 and 1939). This was a sequel to the Hilbert– Ackermann book ''
Principles of Mathematical Logic ''Principles of Mathematical Logic'' is the 1950 American translation of the 1938 second edition of David Hilbert's and Wilhelm Ackermann's classic text ''Grundzüge der theoretischen Logik'', on elementary mathematical logic. The 1928 first editi ...
'' from 1928. Hermann Weyl's successor was Helmut Hasse. About a year later, Hilbert attended a banquet and was seated next to the new Minister of Education, Bernhard Rust. Rust asked whether "the Mathematical Institute really suffered so much because of the departure of the Jews." Hilbert replied, "Suffered? It doesn't exist any longer, does it?"

## Death

By the time Hilbert died in 1943, the Nazis had nearly completely restaffed the university, as many of the former faculty had either been Jewish or married to Jews. Hilbert's funeral was attended by fewer than a dozen people, only two of whom were fellow academics, among them
Arnold Sommerfeld Arnold Johannes Wilhelm Sommerfeld, (; 5 December 1868 – 26 April 1951) was a German theoretical physicist who pioneered developments in atomic and quantum physics, and also educated and mentored many students for the new era of theoretic ...
, a theoretical physicist and also a native of Königsberg. News of his death only became known to the wider world several months after he died. The epitaph on his tombstone in Göttingen consists of the famous lines he spoke at the conclusion of his retirement address to the Society of German Scientists and Physicians on 8 September 1930. The words were given in response to the Latin maxim: "'' Ignoramus et ignorabimus''" or "We do not know, we shall not know": The day before Hilbert pronounced these phrases at the 1930 annual meeting of the Society of German Scientists and Physicians,
Kurt Gödel Kurt Friedrich Gödel ( , ; April 28, 1906 – January 14, 1978) was a logician, mathematician, and philosopher. Considered along with Aristotle and Gottlob Frege to be one of the most significant logicians in history, Gödel had an imm ...
—in a round table discussion during the Conference on Epistemology held jointly with the Society meetings—tentatively announced the first expression of his incompleteness theorem. "The Conference on Epistemology of the Exact Sciences ran for three days, from 5 to 7 September" (Dawson 1997:68). "It ... was held in conjunction with and just before the ninety-first annual meeting of the Society of German Scientists and Physicians ... and the sixth Assembly of German Physicists and Mathematicians.... Gödel's contributed talk took place on Saturday, 6 September
930 Year 930 ( CMXXX) was a common year starting on Friday (link will display the full calendar) of the Julian calendar. Events By place Europe * 17 June (traditional date) – The Althing, the parliament of Iceland, is established at ...
from 3 until 3:20 in the afternoon, and on Sunday the meeting concluded with a round table discussion of the first day's addresses. During the latter event, without warning and almost offhandedly, Gödel quietly announced that "one can even give examples of propositions (and in fact of those of the type of Goldbach or Fermat) that, while contentually true, are unprovable in the formal system of classical mathematics 53 (Dawson:69) "... As it happened, Hilbert himself was present at Königsberg, though apparently not at the Conference on Epistemology. The day after the roundtable discussion he delivered the opening address before the Society of German Scientists and Physicians – his famous lecture ''Naturerkennen und Logik'' (Logic and the knowledge of nature), at the end of which he declared: 'For the mathematician there is no Ignorabimus, and, in my opinion, not at all for natural science either. ... The true reason why o-onehas succeeded in finding an unsolvable problem is, in my opinion, that there is ''no'' unsolvable problem. In contrast to the foolish Ignorabimus, our credo avers: We must know, We shall know 59"(Dawson:71). Gödel's paper was received on November 17, 1930 (cf Reid p. 197, van Heijenoort 1976:592) and published on 25 March 1931 (Dawson 1997:74). But Gödel had given a talk about it beforehand... "An abstract had been presented in October 1930 to the Vienna Academy of Sciences by Hans Hahn" (van Heijenoort:592); this abstract and the full paper both appear in van Heijenoort:583ff.
Gödel's incompleteness theorems Gödel's incompleteness theorems are two theorems of mathematical logic that are concerned with the limits of in formal axiomatic theories. These results, published by Kurt Gödel in 1931, are important both in mathematical logic and in the phil ...
show that even elementary axiomatic systems such as
Peano arithmetic In mathematical logic, the Peano axioms, also known as the Dedekind–Peano axioms or the Peano postulates, are axioms for the natural numbers presented by the 19th century Italian mathematician Giuseppe Peano. These axioms have been used nearl ...
are either self-contradicting or contain logical propositions that are impossible to prove or disprove within that system.

# Contributions to mathematics and physics

## Hilbert solves Gordan's Problem

Hilbert's first work on invariant functions led him to the demonstration in 1888 of his famous ''finiteness theorem''. Twenty years earlier, Paul Gordan had demonstrated the
theorem In mathematics, a theorem is a statement that has been proved, or can be proved. The ''proof'' of a theorem is a logical argument that uses the inference rules of a deductive system to establish that the theorem is a logical consequence of t ...
of the finiteness of generators for binary forms using a complex computational approach. Attempts to generalize his method to functions with more than two variables failed because of the enormous difficulty of the calculations involved. To solve what had become known in some circles as ''Gordan's Problem'', Hilbert realized that it was necessary to take a completely different path. As a result, he demonstrated '' Hilbert's basis theorem'', showing the existence of a finite set of generators, for the invariants of quantics in any number of variables, but in an abstract form. That is, while demonstrating the existence of such a set, it was not a constructive proof—it did not display "an object"—but rather, it was an existence proof and relied on use of the law of excluded middle in an infinite extension. Hilbert sent his results to the '' Mathematische Annalen''. Gordan, the house expert on the theory of invariants for the ''Mathematische Annalen'', could not appreciate the revolutionary nature of Hilbert's theorem and rejected the article, criticizing the exposition because it was insufficiently comprehensive. His comment was: Klein, on the other hand, recognized the importance of the work, and guaranteed that it would be published without any alterations. Encouraged by Klein, Hilbert extended his method in a second article, providing estimations on the maximum degree of the minimum set of generators, and he sent it once more to the ''Annalen''. After having read the manuscript, Klein wrote to him, saying: Later, after the usefulness of Hilbert's method was universally recognized, Gordan himself would say: For all his successes, the nature of his proof created more trouble than Hilbert could have imagined. Although Kronecker had conceded, Hilbert would later respond to others' similar criticisms that "many different constructions are subsumed under one fundamental idea"—in other words (to quote Reid): "Through a proof of existence, Hilbert had been able to obtain a construction"; "the proof" (i.e. the symbols on the page) ''was'' "the object". Not all were convinced. While Kronecker would die soon afterwards, his constructivist philosophy would continue with the young
Brouwer Brouwer (also Brouwers and de Brouwer) is a Dutch and Flemish surname. The word ''brouwer'' means 'beer brewer'. Brouwer * Adriaen Brouwer (1605–1638), Flemish painter * Alexander Brouwer (b. 1989), Dutch beach volleyball player * Andries Brou ...
and his developing intuitionist "school", much to Hilbert's torment in his later years. Indeed, Hilbert would lose his "gifted pupil"
Weyl Hermann Klaus Hugo Weyl, (; 9 November 1885 – 8 December 1955) was a German mathematician, theoretical physicist and philosopher. Although much of his working life was spent in Zürich, Switzerland, and then Princeton, New Jersey, he is assoc ...
to intuitionism—"Hilbert was disturbed by his former student's fascination with the ideas of Brouwer, which aroused in Hilbert the memory of Kronecker". Brouwer the intuitionist in particular opposed the use of the Law of Excluded Middle over infinite sets (as Hilbert had used it). Hilbert responded:

## Axiomatization of geometry

The text ''
Grundlagen der Geometrie Hilbert's axioms are a set of 20 assumptions proposed by David Hilbert in 1899 in his book '' Grundlagen der Geometrie'' (tr. ''The Foundations of Geometry'') as the foundation for a modern treatment of Euclidean geometry. Other well-known modern a ...
'' (tr.: ''Foundations of Geometry'') published by Hilbert in 1899 proposes a formal set, called Hilbert's axioms, substituting for the traditional axioms of Euclid. They avoid weaknesses identified in those of
Euclid Euclid (; grc-gre, Εὐκλείδης; BC) was an ancient Greek mathematician active as a geometer and logician. Considered the "father of geometry", he is chiefly known for the '' Elements'' treatise, which established the foundations of ...
, whose works at the time were still used textbook-fashion. It is difficult to specify the axioms used by Hilbert without referring to the publication history of the ''Grundlagen'' since Hilbert changed and modified them several times. The original monograph was quickly followed by a French translation, in which Hilbert added V.2, the Completeness Axiom. An English translation, authorized by Hilbert, was made by E.J. Townsend and copyrighted in 1902. This translation incorporated the changes made in the French translation and so is considered to be a translation of the 2nd edition. Hilbert continued to make changes in the text and several editions appeared in German. The 7th edition was the last to appear in Hilbert's lifetime. New editions followed the 7th, but the main text was essentially not revised. Hilbert's approach signaled the shift to the modern
axiomatic method In mathematics and logic, an axiomatic system is any set of axioms from which some or all axioms can be used in conjunction to logically derive theorems. A theory is a consistent, relatively-self-contained body of knowledge which usually contai ...
. In this, Hilbert was anticipated by Moritz Pasch's work from 1882. Axioms are not taken as self-evident truths. Geometry may treat ''things'', about which we have powerful intuitions, but it is not necessary to assign any explicit meaning to the undefined concepts. The elements, such as point,
line Line most often refers to: * Line (geometry), object with zero thickness and curvature that stretches to infinity * Telephone line, a single-user circuit on a telephone communication system Line, lines, The Line, or LINE may also refer to: Art ...
, plane, and others, could be substituted, as Hilbert is reported to have said to
Schoenflies Arthur Moritz Schoenflies (; 17 April 1853 – 27 May 1928), sometimes written as Schönflies, was a German mathematician, known for his contributions to the application of group theory to crystallography, and for work in topology. Schoenflies ...
and Kötter, by tables, chairs, glasses of beer and other such objects. It is their defined relationships that are discussed. Hilbert first enumerates the undefined concepts: point, line, plane, lying on (a relation between points and lines, points and planes, and lines and planes), betweenness, congruence of pairs of points ( line segments), and congruence of
angle In Euclidean geometry, an angle is the figure formed by two rays, called the '' sides'' of the angle, sharing a common endpoint, called the ''vertex'' of the angle. Angles formed by two rays lie in the plane that contains the rays. Angles ...
s. The axioms unify both the plane geometry and solid geometry of Euclid in a single system.

## The 23 problems

Hilbert put forth a most influential list of 23 unsolved problems at the
International Congress of Mathematicians The International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM) is the largest conference for the topic of mathematics. It meets once every four years, hosted by the International Mathematical Union (IMU). The Fields Medals, the Nevanlinna Prize (to be rena ...
in
Paris Paris () is the capital and most populous city of France, with an estimated population of 2,165,423 residents in 2019 in an area of more than 105 km² (41 sq mi), making it the 30th most densely populated city in the world in 2020. Si ...
in 1900. This is generally reckoned as the most successful and deeply considered compilation of open problems ever to be produced by an individual mathematician. After re-working the foundations of classical geometry, Hilbert could have extrapolated to the rest of mathematics. His approach differed, however, from the later "foundationalist" Russell–Whitehead or "encyclopedist" Nicolas Bourbaki, and from his contemporary Giuseppe Peano. The mathematical community as a whole could enlist in problems, which he had identified as crucial aspects of the areas of mathematics he took to be key. The problem set was launched as a talk "The Problems of Mathematics" presented during the course of the Second International Congress of Mathematicians held in Paris. The introduction of the speech that Hilbert gave said: He presented fewer than half the problems at the Congress, which were published in the acts of the Congress. In a subsequent publication, he extended the panorama, and arrived at the formulation of the now-canonical 23 Problems of Hilbert. See also Hilbert's twenty-fourth problem. The full text is important, since the exegesis of the questions still can be a matter of inevitable debate, whenever it is asked how many have been solved. Some of these were solved within a short time. Others have been discussed throughout the 20th century, with a few now taken to be unsuitably open-ended to come to closure. Some continue to remain challenges.

## Formalism

In an account that had become standard by the mid-century, Hilbert's problem set was also a kind of manifesto that opened the way for the development of the formalist school, one of three major schools of mathematics of the 20th century. According to the formalist, mathematics is manipulation of symbols according to agreed upon formal rules. It is therefore an autonomous activity of thought. There is, however, room to doubt whether Hilbert's own views were simplistically formalist in this sense.

### Hilbert's program

In 1920, Hilbert proposed a research project in metamathematics that became known as Hilbert's program. He wanted mathematics to be formulated on a solid and complete logical foundation. He believed that in principle this could be done by showing that: # all of mathematics follows from a correctly chosen finite system of
axiom An axiom, postulate, or assumption is a statement that is taken to be true, to serve as a premise or starting point for further reasoning and arguments. The word comes from the Ancient Greek word (), meaning 'that which is thought worthy or ...
s; and # that some such axiom system is provably consistent through some means such as the epsilon calculus. He seems to have had both technical and philosophical reasons for formulating this proposal. It affirmed his dislike of what had become known as the
ignorabimus The Latin maxim , meaning "we do not know and will not know", represents the idea that scientific knowledge is limited. It was popularized by Emil du Bois-Reymond, a German physiologist, in his 1872 address ("The Limits of Science"). Seven "W ...
, still an active issue in his time in German thought, and traced back in that formulation to Emil du Bois-Reymond. This program is still recognizable in the most popular
philosophy of mathematics The philosophy of mathematics is the branch of philosophy that studies the assumptions, foundations, and implications of mathematics. It aims to understand the nature and methods of mathematics, and find out the place of mathematics in people' ...
, where it is usually called ''formalism''. For example, the
Bourbaki group Nicolas Bourbaki () is the collective pseudonym of a group of mathematicians, predominantly French alumni of the École normale supérieure - PSL (ENS). Founded in 1934–1935, the Bourbaki group originally intended to prepare a new textbook ...
adopted a watered-down and selective version of it as adequate to the requirements of their twin projects of (a) writing encyclopedic foundational works, and (b) supporting the
axiomatic method In mathematics and logic, an axiomatic system is any set of axioms from which some or all axioms can be used in conjunction to logically derive theorems. A theory is a consistent, relatively-self-contained body of knowledge which usually contai ...
as a research tool. This approach has been successful and influential in relation with Hilbert's work in algebra and functional analysis, but has failed to engage in the same way with his interests in physics and logic. Hilbert wrote in 1919: Hilbert published his views on the foundations of mathematics in the 2-volume work, Grundlagen der Mathematik.

### Gödel's work

Hilbert and the mathematicians who worked with him in his enterprise were committed to the project. His attempt to support axiomatized mathematics with definitive principles, which could banish theoretical uncertainties, ended in failure. Gödel demonstrated that any non-contradictory formal system, which was comprehensive enough to include at least arithmetic, cannot demonstrate its completeness by way of its own axioms. In 1931 his
incompleteness theorem Complete may refer to: Logic * Completeness (logic) * Completeness of a theory, the property of a theory that every formula in the theory's language or its negation is provable Mathematics * The completeness of the real numbers, which implies ...
showed that Hilbert's grand plan was impossible as stated. The second point cannot in any reasonable way be combined with the first point, as long as the axiom system is genuinely finitary. Nevertheless, the subsequent achievements of proof theory at the very least ''clarified'' consistency as it relates to theories of central concern to mathematicians. Hilbert's work had started logic on this course of clarification; the need to understand Gödel's work then led to the development of recursion theory and then
mathematical logic Mathematical logic is the study of formal logic within mathematics. Major subareas include model theory, proof theory, set theory, and recursion theory. Research in mathematical logic commonly addresses the mathematical properties of forma ...
as an autonomous discipline in the 1930s. The basis for later
theoretical computer science computer science (TCS) is a subset of general computer science and mathematics that focuses on mathematical aspects of computer science such as the theory of computation, lambda calculus, and type theory. It is difficult to circumscribe the ...
, in the work of Alonzo Church and
Alan Turing Alan Mathison Turing (; 23 June 1912 – 7 June 1954) was an English mathematician, computer scientist, logician, cryptanalyst, philosopher, and theoretical biologist. Turing was highly influential in the development of theoretical ...
, also grew directly out of this "debate".

## Functional analysis

Around 1909, Hilbert dedicated himself to the study of differential and integral equations; his work had direct consequences for important parts of modern functional analysis. In order to carry out these studies, Hilbert introduced the concept of an infinite dimensional
Euclidean space Euclidean space is the fundamental space of geometry, intended to represent physical space. Originally, that is, in Euclid's ''Elements'', it was the three-dimensional space of Euclidean geometry, but in modern mathematics there are Euclidea ...
, later called
Hilbert space In mathematics, Hilbert spaces (named after David Hilbert) allow generalizing the methods of linear algebra and calculus from (finite-dimensional) Euclidean vector spaces to spaces that may be infinite-dimensional. Hilbert spaces arise natural ...
. His work in this part of analysis provided the basis for important contributions to the mathematics of physics in the next two decades, though from an unanticipated direction. Later on, Stefan Banach amplified the concept, defining Banach spaces. Hilbert spaces are an important class of objects in the area of
functional analysis Functional analysis is a branch of mathematical analysis, the core of which is formed by the study of vector spaces endowed with some kind of limit-related structure (e.g. inner product, norm, topology, etc.) and the linear functions defi ...
, particularly of the
spectral theory In mathematics, spectral theory is an inclusive term for theories extending the eigenvector and eigenvalue theory of a single square matrix to a much broader theory of the structure of operators in a variety of mathematical spaces. It is a result ...
of self-adjoint linear operators, that grew up around it during the 20th century.

## Physics

Until 1912, Hilbert was almost exclusively a
pure mathematician Pure mathematics is the study of mathematical concepts independently of any application outside mathematics. These concepts may originate in real-world concerns, and the results obtained may later turn out to be useful for practical applications ...
. When planning a visit from Bonn, where he was immersed in studying physics, his fellow mathematician and friend Hermann Minkowski joked he had to spend 10 days in quarantine before being able to visit Hilbert. In fact, Minkowski seems responsible for most of Hilbert's physics investigations prior to 1912, including their joint seminar on the subject in 1905. In 1912, three years after his friend's death, Hilbert turned his focus to the subject almost exclusively. He arranged to have a "physics tutor" for himself. He started studying kinetic gas theory and moved on to elementary
radiation In physics, radiation is the emission or transmission of energy in the form of waves or particles through space or through a material medium. This includes: * ''electromagnetic radiation'', such as radio waves, microwaves, infrared, visi ...
theory and the molecular theory of matter. Even after the war started in 1914, he continued seminars and classes where the works of
Albert Einstein Albert Einstein ( ; ; 14 March 1879 – 18 April 1955) was a German-born theoretical physicist, widely acknowledged to be one of the greatest and most influential physicists of all time. Einstein is best known for developing the theor ...
and others were followed closely. By 1907, Einstein had framed the fundamentals of the theory of
gravity In physics, gravity () is a fundamental interaction which causes mutual attraction between all things with mass or energy. Gravity is, by far, the weakest of the four fundamental interactions, approximately 1038 times weaker than the stro ...
, but then struggled for nearly 8 years to put the theory into its final form. By early summer 1915, Hilbert's interest in physics had focused on
general relativity General relativity, also known as the general theory of relativity and Einstein's theory of gravity, is the geometric theory of gravitation published by Albert Einstein in 1915 and is the current description of gravitation in modern physics ...
, and he invited Einstein to Göttingen to deliver a week of lectures on the subject. Einstein received an enthusiastic reception at Göttingen. Over the summer, Einstein learned that Hilbert was also working on the field equations and redoubled his own efforts. During November 1915, Einstein published several papers culminating in ''The Field Equations of Gravitation'' (see Einstein field equations).In time, associating the gravitational field equations with Hilbert's name became less and less common. A noticeable exception is P. Jordan (Schwerkraft und Weltall, Braunschweig, Vieweg, 1952), who called the equations of gravitation in the vacuum the Einstein–Hilbert equations. (''Leo Corry, David Hilbert and the Axiomatization of Physics'', p. 437) Nearly simultaneously, Hilbert published "The Foundations of Physics", an axiomatic derivation of the field equations (see
Einstein–Hilbert action The Einstein–Hilbert action (also referred to as Hilbert action) in general relativity is the action that yields the Einstein field equations through the stationary-action principle. With the metric signature, the gravitational part of the a ...
). Hilbert fully credited Einstein as the originator of the theory and no public priority dispute concerning the field equations ever arose between the two men during their lives.Since 1971 there have been some spirited and scholarly discussions about which of the two men first presented the now accepted form of the field equations. "Hilbert freely admitted, and frequently stated in lectures, that the great idea was Einstein's: "Every boy in the streets of Gottingen understands more about four dimensional geometry than Einstein," he once remarked. "Yet, in spite of that, Einstein did the work and not the mathematicians." (Reid 1996, pp. 141–142, also Isaacson 2007:222 quoting Thorne p. 119). See more at priority. Additionally, Hilbert's work anticipated and assisted several advances in the mathematical formulation of quantum mechanics. His work was a key aspect of
Hermann Weyl Hermann Klaus Hugo Weyl, (; 9 November 1885 – 8 December 1955) was a German mathematician, theoretical physicist and philosopher. Although much of his working life was spent in Zürich, Switzerland, and then Princeton, New Jersey, he is asso ...
and
John von Neumann John von Neumann (; hu, Neumann János Lajos, ; December 28, 1903 – February 8, 1957) was a Hungarian-American mathematician, physicist, computer scientist, engineer and polymath. He was regarded as having perhaps the widest c ...
's work on the mathematical equivalence of
Werner Heisenberg Werner Karl Heisenberg () (5 December 1901 – 1 February 1976) was a German theoretical physicist and one of the main pioneers of the theory of quantum mechanics. He published his work in 1925 in a Über quantentheoretische Umdeutung kinematis ...
's matrix mechanics and Erwin Schrödinger's
wave equation The (two-way) wave equation is a second-order linear partial differential equation for the description of waves or standing wave fields — as they occur in classical physics — such as mechanical waves (e.g. water waves, sound waves and ...
, and his namesake Hilbert space plays an important part in quantum theory. In 1926, von Neumann showed that, if quantum states were understood as vectors in Hilbert space, they would correspond with both Schrödinger's wave function theory and Heisenberg's matrices.In 1926, the year after the matrix mechanics formulation of quantum theory by
Max Born Max Born (; 11 December 1882 – 5 January 1970) was a German physicist and mathematician who was instrumental in the development of quantum mechanics. He also made contributions to solid-state physics and optics and supervised the work of a ...
and
Werner Heisenberg Werner Karl Heisenberg () (5 December 1901 – 1 February 1976) was a German theoretical physicist and one of the main pioneers of the theory of quantum mechanics. He published his work in 1925 in a Über quantentheoretische Umdeutung kinematis ...
, the mathematician
John von Neumann John von Neumann (; hu, Neumann János Lajos, ; December 28, 1903 – February 8, 1957) was a Hungarian-American mathematician, physicist, computer scientist, engineer and polymath. He was regarded as having perhaps the widest c ...
became an assistant to Hilbert at Göttingen. When von Neumann left in 1932, von Neumann's book on the mathematical foundations of quantum mechanics, based on Hilbert's mathematics, was published under the title ''Mathematische Grundlagen der Quantenmechanik''. See: Norman Macrae (1999) ''John von Neumann: The Scientific Genius Who Pioneered the Modern Computer, Game Theory, Nuclear Deterrence, and Much More'' (reprinted by the American Mathematical Society) and Reid (1996).
Throughout this immersion in physics, Hilbert worked on putting rigor into the mathematics of physics. While highly dependent on higher mathematics, physicists tended to be "sloppy" with it. To a pure mathematician like Hilbert, this was both ugly, and difficult to understand. As he began to understand physics and how physicists were using mathematics, he developed a coherent mathematical theory for what he found – most importantly in the area of integral equations. When his colleague Richard Courant wrote the now classic ''
Methoden der mathematischen Physik ''Methoden der mathematischen Physik'' (Methods of Mathematical Physics) is a 1924 book, in two volumes totalling around 1000 pages, published under the names of Richard Courant and David Hilbert. It was a comprehensive treatment of the "methods o ...
'' (''Methods of Mathematical Physics'') including some of Hilbert's ideas, he added Hilbert's name as author even though Hilbert had not directly contributed to the writing. Hilbert said "Physics is too hard for physicists", implying that the necessary mathematics was generally beyond them; the Courant-Hilbert book made it easier for them.

## Number theory

Hilbert unified the field of
algebraic number theory Algebraic number theory is a branch of number theory that uses the techniques of abstract algebra to study the integers, rational numbers, and their generalizations. Number-theoretic questions are expressed in terms of properties of algebraic o ...
with his 1897 treatise ''
Zahlbericht In mathematics, the ''Zahlbericht'' (number report) was a report on algebraic number theory by . History In 1893 the German mathematical society invited Hilbert and Minkowski to write reports on the theory of numbers. They agreed that Minkowski ...
'' (literally "report on numbers"). He also resolved a significant number-theory problem formulated by Waring in 1770. As with the finiteness theorem, he used an existence proof that shows there must be solutions for the problem rather than providing a mechanism to produce the answers. He then had little more to publish on the subject; but the emergence of
Hilbert modular form In mathematics, a Hilbert modular form is a generalization of modular forms to functions of two or more variables. It is a (complex) analytic function on the ''m''-fold product of upper half-planes \mathcal satisfying a certain kind of functional ...
s in the dissertation of a student means his name is further attached to a major area. He made a series of conjectures on
class field theory In mathematics, class field theory (CFT) is the fundamental branch of algebraic number theory whose goal is to describe all the abelian Galois extensions of local and global fields using objects associated to the ground field. Hilbert is cre ...
. The concepts were highly influential, and his own contribution lives on in the names of the Hilbert class field and of the Hilbert symbol of local class field theory. Results were mostly proved by 1930, after work by Teiji Takagi.This work established Takagi as Japan's first mathematician of international stature. Hilbert did not work in the central areas of
analytic number theory In mathematics, analytic number theory is a branch of number theory that uses methods from mathematical analysis to solve problems about the integers. It is often said to have begun with Peter Gustav Lejeune Dirichlet's 1837 introduction of Diri ...
, but his name has become known for the
Hilbert–Pólya conjecture In mathematics, the Hilbert–Pólya conjecture states that the non-trivial zeros of the Riemann zeta function correspond to eigenvalues of a self-adjoint operator. It is a possible approach to the Riemann hypothesis, by means of spectral theory. ...
, for reasons that are anecdotal.

# Works

His collected works (''Gesammelte Abhandlungen'') have been published several times. The original versions of his papers contained "many technical errors of varying degree";, chap. 13. when the collection was first published, the errors were corrected and it was found that this could be done without major changes in the statements of the theorems, with one exception—a claimed proof of the continuum hypothesis. Rota G.-C. (1997),
Ten lessons I wish I had been taught
, '' Notices of the AMS'', 44: 22-25.
The errors were nonetheless so numerous and significant that it took Olga Taussky-Todd three years to make the corrections.

## Concepts

* List of things named after David Hilbert *
Foundations of geometry Foundations of geometry is the study of geometries as axiomatic systems. There are several sets of axioms which give rise to Euclidean geometry or to non-Euclidean geometries. These are fundamental to the study and of historical importance, bu ...
* Hilbert C*-module *
Hilbert cube In mathematics, the Hilbert cube, named after David Hilbert, is a topological space that provides an instructive example of some ideas in topology. Furthermore, many interesting topological spaces can be embedded in the Hilbert cube; that is ...
* Hilbert curve * Hilbert matrix *
Hilbert metric In mathematics, the Hilbert metric, also known as the Hilbert projective metric, is an explicitly defined distance function on a bounded convex subset of the ''n''-dimensional Euclidean space R''n''. It was introduced by as a generalization of Ca ...
* Hilbert–Mumford criterion * Hilbert number *
Hilbert ring In algebra, a Hilbert ring or a Jacobson ring is a ring such that every prime ideal is an intersection of primitive ideals. For commutative rings primitive ideals are the same as maximal ideals so in this case a Jacobson ring is one in which every ...
* Hilbert–Poincaré series * Hilbert series and Hilbert polynomial *
Hilbert space In mathematics, Hilbert spaces (named after David Hilbert) allow generalizing the methods of linear algebra and calculus from (finite-dimensional) Euclidean vector spaces to spaces that may be infinite-dimensional. Hilbert spaces arise natural ...
* Hilbert spectrum * Hilbert system * Hilbert transform *
Hilbert's arithmetic of ends In mathematics, specifically in the area of hyperbolic geometry, Hilbert's arithmetic of ends is a method for endowing a geometric set, the set of ideal points or "ends" of a hyperbolic plane, with an algebraic structure as a field. It was introduc ...
* Hilbert's paradox of the Grand Hotel *
Hilbert–Schmidt operator In mathematics, a Hilbert–Schmidt operator, named after David Hilbert and Erhard Schmidt, is a bounded operator A \colon H \to H that acts on a Hilbert space H and has finite Hilbert–Schmidt norm \, A\, ^2_ \ \stackrel\ \sum_ \, Ae_i\, ...
*
Hilbert–Smith conjecture In mathematics, the Hilbert–Smith conjecture is concerned with the transformation groups of manifolds; and in particular with the limitations on topological groups ''G'' that can act effectively (faithfully) on a (topological) manifold ''M''. Res ...

## Theorems

*
Hilbert–Burch theorem In mathematics, the Hilbert–Burch theorem describes the structure of some free resolutions of a quotient of a local or graded ring in the case that the quotient has projective dimension 2. proved a version of this theorem for polynomial ...
* Hilbert's irreducibility theorem * Hilbert's Nullstellensatz *
Hilbert's theorem (differential geometry) In differential geometry, Hilbert's theorem (1901) states that there exists no complete regular surface S of constant negative gaussian curvature K immersed in \mathbb^. This theorem answers the question for the negative case of which surfaces ...
* Hilbert's Theorem 90 * Hilbert's syzygy theorem *
Hilbert–Speiser theorem In mathematics, the Hilbert–Speiser theorem is a result on cyclotomic fields, characterising those with a normal integral basis. More generally, it applies to any finite abelian extension of , which by the Kronecker–Weber theorem are isomorph ...

## Other

*
Brouwer–Hilbert controversy In a controversy over the foundations of mathematics, in twentieth-century mathematics, L. E. J. Brouwer, a proponent of the constructivist school of intuitionism, opposed David Hilbert, a proponent of formalism. The debate concerned fundamenta ...
* Direct method in the calculus of variations * Entscheidungsproblem * ''
Geometry and the Imagination ''Geometry and the Imagination'' is the English translation of the 1932 book by David Hilbert and Stefan Cohn-Vossen. The book was based on a series of lectures Hilbert made in the winter of 1920–21. The book is an attempt to present some t ...
'' * General relativity priority dispute

# Sources

## Primary literature in English translation

* ** 1918. "Axiomatic thought," 1114–1115. ** 1922. "The new grounding of mathematics: First report," 1115–1133. ** 1923. "The logical foundations of mathematics," 1134–1147. ** 1930. "Logic and the knowledge of nature," 1157–1165. ** 1931. "The grounding of elementary number theory," 1148–1156. ** 1904. "On the foundations of logic and arithmetic," 129–138. ** 1925. "On the infinite," 367–392. ** 1927. "The foundations of mathematics," with comment by
Weyl Hermann Klaus Hugo Weyl, (; 9 November 1885 – 8 December 1955) was a German mathematician, theoretical physicist and philosopher. Although much of his working life was spent in Zürich, Switzerland, and then Princeton, New Jersey, he is assoc ...
and Appendix by
Bernays Bernays is a surname. Notable people with the surname include: * Adolphus Bernays (1795–1864), professor of German in London; brother of Isaac Bernays and father of: ** Lewis Adolphus Bernays (1831–1908), public servant and agricultural write ...
, 464–489. * * * * *

## Secondary literature

* , available at Gallica. The "Address" of Gabriel Bertrand of 20 December 1943 at the French Academy: he gives biographical sketches of the lives of recently deceased members, including Pieter Zeeman, David Hilbert and
Georges Giraud Georges Julien Giraud (22 July 1889 – 16 March 1943) was a French mathematician, working in potential theory, partial differential equations, singular integrals and singular integral equations: he is mainly known for his solution of the Oblique ...
. * Bottazzini Umberto, 2003. ''Il flauto di Hilbert. Storia della matematica''. UTET, * Corry, L., Renn, J., and Stachel, J., 1997, "Belated Decision in the Hilbert-Einstein Priority Dispute," ''Science 278'': nn-nn. * * Dawson, John W. Jr 1997. ''Logical Dilemmas: The Life and Work of Kurt Gödel''. Wellesley MA: A. K. Peters. . * * Grattan-Guinness, Ivor, 2000. ''The Search for Mathematical Roots 1870–1940''. Princeton Univ. Press. * Gray, Jeremy, 2000. ''The Hilbert Challenge''. * * Mehra, Jagdish, 1974. ''Einstein, Hilbert, and the Theory of Gravitation''. Reidel. *
Piergiorgio Odifreddi Piergiorgio Odifreddi (born 13 July 1950, in Cuneo) is an Italian mathematician, logician, aficionado of the history of science, and popular science writer and essayist, especially on philosophical atheism as a member of the Italian Union of Rati ...
, 2003. ''Divertimento Geometrico. Le origini geometriche della logica da Euclide a Hilbert''. Bollati Boringhieri, . A clear exposition of the "errors" of Euclid and of the solutions presented in the ''Grundlagen der Geometrie'', with reference to non-Euclidean geometry. * The definitive English-language biography of Hilbert. * * * *Sieg, Wilfried, and Ravaglia, Mark, 2005, "Grundlagen der Mathematik" in Grattan-Guinness, I., ed., ''Landmark Writings in Western Mathematics''.
Elsevier Elsevier () is a Dutch academic publishing company specializing in scientific, technical, and medical content. Its products include journals such as '' The Lancet'', '' Cell'', the ScienceDirect collection of electronic journals, '' Trends'', ...
: 981-99. (in English) * Thorne, Kip, 1995. '' Black Holes and Time Warps: Einstein's Outrageous Legacy'', W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition. .

Hilbert Bernays Project

ICMM 2014 dedicated to the memory of D.Hilbert
* * *
Hilbert's radio speech recorded in Königsberg 1930 (in German)
, with Englis
translation

* *
'From Hilbert's Problems to the Future'
lecture by Professor Robin Wilson, Gresham College, 27 February 2008 (available in text, audio and video formats). * {{DEFAULTSORT:Hilbert, David 1862 births 1943 deaths 19th-century German mathematicians 20th-century German mathematicians Foreign Members of the Royal Society Foreign associates of the National Academy of Sciences German agnostics Formalism (deductive) Former Protestants Geometers Mathematical analysts Number theorists Operator theorists Scientists from Königsberg People from the Province of Prussia Recipients of the Pour le Mérite (civil class) German relativity theorists University of Göttingen faculty University of Königsberg alumni University of Königsberg faculty