THIS WEEK IN ARMENIAN HISTORY
(Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee)
Death of Emil Artin
(December 20, 1962)
People of Armenian descent are also, in a certain way, part of Armenian history. One of the leading mathematicians of the twentieth century, Emil Artin, and his son Michael, an emeritus professor at MIT who also specialized in algebra, have enabled another mathematician, Carl Faith, to write: “The Artins or Artinians are true mathematical royalty despite the assertion by Euclid: there is no royal road to geometry.”
Emil Artin was born in Vienna (Austria) on March 3, 1898. He descended from an Armenian merchant who had settled in the country in the nineteenth century. His father, also called Emil, was born in Austria from mixed Austrian and Armenian descent, and was either an opera singer or an art dealer. His mother Emma Maria Laura was an opera singer.
Emil lost his father in 1906 and his mother remarried a year later to Rudolf Hübner, a prosperous manufacturer in Reichenberg (now Liberec in the Czech Republic). After a year in a boarding school, he returned to Reichenberg in 1908, where he pursued his secondary education until 1916.
Emil Artin matriculated at the University of Vienna, having focused on mathematics. His studies were interrupted by the military draft in 1918. He stayed in Vienna from 1918-1919, when he matriculated at the University of Leipzig. In June 1921 he was awarded the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, based on his oral examination and his dissertation, “On the Arithmetic of Quadratic Function Fields over Finite Fields.”
Artin moved to Göttingen, considered the “Mecca” of mathematics at the time, in the fall of 1921. After a year of post-doctoral studies in mathematics and mathematical physics, in 1922 he accepted a position offered at the University of Hamburg, and by 1926 he had been promoted to full professor, becoming one of the two youngest professors of mathematics in Germany.
In August 1929 Artin married Natalia Naumovna Jasny (Natascha), a young Russian émigré who had been a student in several of his classes. Their first two children, Karin and Michael, were born in 1933 and 1934. Artin’s situation became increasingly precarious after Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany and the Nazi regime was established, not only because his wife was half Jewish, but also because Artin made no secret of his distaste for the Hitler regime.
In July 1937 Artin lost his post at the University. Thanks to the efforts of colleagues already relocated to the United States, a position was found for him at Notre Dame University in Indiana. After the arrival of the Artin family to the United States, the mathematician taught at Notre Dame for the rest of the academic year. He was offered a permanent position the following year at Indiana University, in Bloomington, where he taught from 1938-1946. His third son, Thomas, was born in November 1938.
In 1946 Artin was appointed Professor at Princeton University, which had become the center of the mathematical world following the decimation of German mathematics under the Nazis. He and his wife were granted American citizenship in the same year.
Artin was one of the leading algebraists of the century. He worked in algebraic number theory, and also contributed to the pure theories of rings, groups and fields. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1957. In 1958 he moved permanently to Germany, where he was offered a professorship at Hamburg. His marriage was seriously frayed, and he divorced his wife in 1959. He was granted German citizenship in 1961, and passed away of a heart attack in Hamburg at the age of 64, on December 20, 1962. The University of Hamburg honored his memory on April 26, 2005 by naming one of its newly renovated lecture halls The Emil Artin Lecture Hall.
Before that, the Emil Artin Junior Prize in Mathematics was established in 2001. It is presented usually every year to a former student of a university in the Republic of Armenia, who is under the age of thirty-five, for outstanding contributions in algebra, geometry, topology, and number theory. The award is announced in the Notices of the American Mathematical Society.