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Learn here how Bonn has advanced to one of Germany's leading centers for mathematical teaching and research.

19th and early 20th century

There is a detailed history, including biographies of the famous Bonn mathematicians Julius Plücker, Rudolph Lipschitz, Felix Klein, and Felix Hausdorff, on the pages of the Hausdorff Center for Mathematics. Click here for the early history

1945 - present

HirzebruchThe name which is inseperably connected with Bonn's development in the second half of the 20th century is Friedrich Hirzebruch (1927-2012). He actively steered Bonn towards becoming an international center for guest researchers, first through the “Arbeitstagung” and later by founding the Max Planck Institute for Mathematics. Below we give an account of the development of the different institutions of mathematics in Bonn.

Mathematical Institute (MI)

From the university's foundation in 1818 to the the early 1950s, the mathematics department consisted of two chairs, that were comprised in the Mathematical Institute. In the time immediately after WWII, the chairs were held by Wolfgang Krull and Ernst Peschl (both since about 1938), who both had been instrumental in the rebuilding of the mathematics department after 1945. The Mathematical Institute later expanded with new chairs: 1964 with Jacques Tits, 1966 with Wilhelm Klingenberg and 1970 with Stefan Hildebrandt.

Institute for Applied Mathematics (IAM)

Ernst Peschl was committed to developing the field of applied mathematics and fought successfully for the creation of chairs for applied mathematics. The first new chair was filled with Heinz Unger in 1958 (functional analysis and numerical mathematics), the second in 1964 with Walter Vogel (probability theory and mathematical statistics), and the third in 1965 with Rolf Leis (mathematical methods in physics). This is how the Institute for Applied Mathematics (formally founded in 1954) started.

Institute for Numerical Simulation (INS)

Since 2003 the IAM now has a young daughter: the Institute for Numerical Simulation which was established by Michael Griebel. Since 2010, the nearby Fraunhofer Institute SCAI in 2012 maintains a branch lab at the INS.

Research Institute for Discrete Mathematics (DM)

In 1972 Bernhard Korte was appointed to a professorship at Bonn University. Thus began the success story of the Research Institute for Discrete Mathematics which was founded in 1981 and 1997 moved into a beautiful new building housing also the Arithmeum.

Hirzebruch and the “Arbeitstagung”

Hirzebruch arrived in Bonn in 1955 as assistant professor and became full professor in 1956. Prior to his time in Bonn, Hirzebruch was a Visiting Research Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, USA. At the School of Mathematics of the Institute for Advanced Study, visiting research fellows from all over the world could devote themselves for one or two years completely to research free of other commitments. Hirzebruch was so enthusiastic about his time there that, right from the beginning of his work in Bonn, the idea of establishing an institute comparable to the School of Mathematics of the Institute for Advanced Studies was on his mind. He started by inviting visiting professors. During the summer semester 1957 the first Arbeitstagung took place, which from then on was held once a year and became known world wide under that name. There was no set programme but programme discussions and a selection of speakers during the week of the Arbeitstagung. Only the first speaker was determined in advance.

Collaborative Research Centers and Max Planck Institute

The successful workshops and the increasing number of stays by visiting professors and researchers lead to the successful proposal for a Collaborative Research Center "Theoretical Mathematics" (Sonderforschungsbereich - SFB 40) which was submitted to the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft - DFG). Originally an application for one Collaborative Research Center in pure and applied mathematics was handed in. The resulting SFB was deemed much too big by the DFG and thus was split into the Collaborative Research Center SFB 40 (theoretical mathematics) and Collaborative Research Center SFB 72 (approximation and mathematical optimization in application-oriented mathematics) were created.

The Collaborative Research Centers were a success. The Max Planck Institute for Mathematics, founded by Hirzebruch in 1980, grew out of SFB 40 and celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2010. Also, new Collaborative Research Centers have been established: In pure mathematics, there is the trans-regional SFB/TR 45 (periods, moduli spaces and arithmetic of algebraic varieties) together with the University of Mainz. In applied mathematics, SFB 72 was followed by a series of Collaborative Research Centers: SFB 256 (nonlinear partial differential equations), then SFB 611 (singular phenomena and scaling in mathematical models), and now the current SFB 1060 (the mathematics of emergent effects).

Hausdorff Center for Mathematics

In 2006, Bonn was successful in the federal competition known as “Exzellenzinitiative” and was awarded with Germany's only mathematically themed Cluster of Excellence. The Hausdorff Center for Mathematics further strengthens and expands Bonn's international research activities. In 2012 a second funding period has been granted.

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