Ybbs, Austria 15 July 1865 - Ybbs 15 Jan 1945


Brief scientific biography

Wilhelm Wirtinger was born in Ybbs, a town on the Danube river.
Wirtinger studied at the University of Vienna; he passed the doctorate exam in mathematics there in 1887. Thanks to a travel grant, he continued studying abroad, in Germany, first in Berlin but mainly in Göttingen. There he was guided by Felix Klein doing research on synthetic geometry. Eventually, Klein became his friend. Wirtinger obtained the Habilitation in mathematics in 1890, again in Vienna.
After a short period in 1895 as a professor at the University of Vienna, Wirtinger accepted a call to a professorship at the University of Innsbruck. In 1896, Wirtinger returned to a full professorship at the University of Vienna.
Wirtinger showed extraordinarily broad competences in mathematics. His first important publications were on theta functions. The solution of a problem in the theory of general theta functions earned him, in 1895, an award from the Göttingen academy. He continued with work on algebraic functions and their integrals, then on Abelian functions, later on differential geometry, and eventually on complex functions of several variables. Moreover, he did research in mathematical physics and in statistics. In the Encyklopaedie der mathematischen Wissenschaften mit Einschluß ihrer Anwendungen there are a number of articles by him (partial differential equations, calculus of variations, complex function theory). He was the editor of the journal Monatshefte für Mathematik und Physik.
Mathematicians who studied with him in Vienna were, among others, Schreier, Gödel, Radon, and Taussky-Todd. Wirtinger was a member of the academies of science in Vienna, Berlin, Göttingen and Munich, and of the Papal academy in Rome. He was awarded several distinctions, including honorary doctoral degrees from the universities in Hamburg and in Oslo.

Commitment to Education

When the Austrian sub-committee of IMUK was established in 1909, Wirtinger was nominated one of the three delegates and thus became a member of IMUK. He continued in this function until the dissolution in 1920. In 1936, after the reestablishment of IMUK, Wirtinger was elected an honorary member of the committee. For the IMUK meeting in Milan in 1911, he was a member of the committee preparing the reports on the mathematical training of students of the natural sciences and gave the report for Austria. In 1933, he published, together with H. Hahn and E. Kruppa, the report on the training of mathematics teachers in Austria.

Primary Bibliography

W. WIRTINGER 1887, Über die Brennpunctscurve der räumlichen Parabel, Wien
W. WIRTINGER 1895, Untersuchungen über Thetafunctionen, Leipzig, Teubner
W. WIRTINGER 1926, Allgemeine Infinitesimalgeometrie und Erfahrung, Leipzig, Teubner
W. WIRTINGER 1942, Zur Theorie der konformen Abbildung mehrfach zusammenhängender ebener Flächen, Berlin, Verl. der Akad. der Wiss.
W. WIRTINGER, H. HAHN, E. KRUPPA 1933, Die Ausbildung der Mathematiklehrer an den Mittelschulen Oesterreichs, L'Enseignement Mathématique, 32, 184-191

Essential Secondary Bibliography

RICHARD DEDEKIND, H. WEBER (Eds.) 1892 and 1902, Bernhard Riemanns gesammelte mathematische Werke und wissenschaftlicher Nachlass. Nachträge, M. Noether and W. Wirtinger (Eds.). 2. Aufl., Leipzig, Teubner
Wirtinger-Festband 1936, Leipzig & Wien [Monatshefte für Mathematik und Physik, 43, 1936]


C. CARATHEODORY, W. WIRTINGER 1944-1948, Jahresbericht der Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, München, 256-258

Gert Schubring
Institut für Didaktik der Mathematik
Fakultät für Mathematik, Universität Bielefeld