Irish Austrian Mathematical Connections (Jan 2021)

In previous blogs here, we have surveyed Irish mathematical connections with overseas places of learning, including Cambridge, Oxford, and France (in each case only up to 1900, so far), as well as Caltech, Boston, and Illinois. This month, we turn to Austria.  Of course, for a significant period Austria was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire.

The goal below is to include all mathematical people whose training and/or careers included time in both Ireland and Austria.  As well as Irish and Austrians, this includes some Hungarians and others, for instance those who did a PhD in one country and a post doc in the other. 

To the best of our knowledge, the story starts with a few Irish scholars going to Vienna in the 1930s, followed by Schrödinger's famous arrival in Ireland at the end of that decade.  Schrödinger is one of many people from that part of Europe whose education was completed in an era where the historical record seems to imply that they were awarded doctorates after a few years of study and a dissertation.  There is often no explicit mention of earlier degrees.

The focus here is almost exclusively on Vienna, with just two appearances of Graz.  We know of no relevant Irish connection to Linz, Salzburg or Innsbruch.

As usual, we include some people with physics and engineering leanings.  Please alert us to any omissions or errors.  (Some living people have asked not to be included.)

Last updated 10 Feb 2023.

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01. Erwin Schrödinger (1887-1961) was born 12 August in Vienna, and was educated at the Univ of Vienna (Dr Phil 1910).  His thesis on "Über die Leitung der Elektrizität auf der Oberfläche von Isolatoren an feuchter Luft" (About the conduction of electricity on the surface of insulators in moist air) was done under Fritz Hasenöhrl.  After another decade at Vienna, and a number of short appointments in Germany, he was at Zürrich (1921-1927), Friedrich Wilhelm Univ in Berlin (1927-1934), Oxford (1934-1935), Graz (1936-1938) and Ghent (1938-1939). Eamon de Valera then famously invited him to Ireland where he was the first professor at the new Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (1940-1956).  While in Ireland, he authored the books What Is Life? and Studies in the Non-Symmetric Generalization of the Theory of Gravitation.  He spent his final years back in Vienna.

Wikipedia / MacTutor / Ency Brit

02. Mathematical physicist Richard Boylan (1904-1964) was born 3 February in Bray, Wicklow, and was brought up in Derry city and Dublin.  He was educated at UCD (BA 1924, MA 1930?), having attended the University of Vienna (1925-1928) thanks to a Rockefeller scholarship.  He briefly taught physics at UCD, working with JJ Nolan and JJ Dowling, then in 1931 he left academia for a distinguished religious life as Dom Eugene, largely based in Roscrea, Tipperary.

Bio Roscrea / Grave


03. Crytallographer Helen Megaw (1907-2002) was born 1 June in Dublin, her mother Annie McElderry having being the first woman in Ireland to get an MA in maths by exam.  She grew up in Dublin and in Belfast, and was educated at Girton College Cambridge (BA earned 1930 but not awarded, PhD 1934), studying under (and later working alongside) Tipperary's John Bernal.  She then studied iunder Hermann Mark in Vienna (1934-1935). She published papers over a 30-year period, and authored 2 books.

Wikipedia / Bio / DUB / 1911 Census


04. Lajos Jánossy (1912-1978) was born 2 March in Budapest, Hungary, and grew up there and in Vienna.  He was educated at Vienna and Berlin, and fled the continent due to WWII. He worked both in Birkbeck in London and in Manchester.  He spent a notable period at DIAS in Dublin (1947-1950), during which his work was particularly mathematical, yielding the book Cosmic Rays (Clarendon, 1948).  The rest of his career was spent back in Budapest.

Wikipedia / Book


05. Friederich Mautner (1921-1996) was born 14 May in Vienna, and was educated at first at Durham (BSc 1943?).  He then held joint appointments at QUB and DIA (1944-1946).  After doing his 1948 PhD on "Unitary Representations of Infinite Groups" at Princeton under John von Neumann, he spent most of the rest of his career at Johns Hopkins.

Wikipedia / Durham / DIAS /


06. Gabriel Dirac (1925–1984) was born (as Balázs Gábor) 13 March in Budapest, Hungary, and grew up there and in England.  He was educated at Cambridge (BA 1946?, MA 1949) and the University of London (PhD 1952), his thesis "On the Colouring of Graphs: Combinatorial Topology of Linear Complexes" being done under Richard Rado.  He worked at the Universities of Vienna (1954-1958) and Hamburg (1958-1963) before becoming Erasmus Smith's Professor of Maths (1964–1966).  His later career was spent at Swansea and Aarhus.



07. Theoretical physicist Otto Bergmann (1925-2013) was born 7 February in Vienna, Austria, and was educated at the Univ of Vienna (Dip 1947?, Dr rer nat 1949).  His doctorate on Heisenberg’s S-matrix formulation and the relativistic treatment of the phase-shift analysis of neutron-proton scattering was done under Paul Urban & Roman Sexl.  His career started at the Tech Univ of Vienna (1949-1951), DIAS (1951-1952), followed by several short posts in Australia and the USA.  He then settled at George Washington Univ (1962-1998).

GWU / Obit 1 / Obit 2 


08. Hans Schneider (1927-2014) was born 24 January in  Vienna, and grew up there and in Edinburgh.  He was educated at Edinburgh (MA 1948, PhD 1952), his thesis on "Matrices with Non Negative Elements" being done under Alec Aitken.  He also worked at the observatory in Edinburgh (1948-1950).  His career started at QUB (1952-1959), and he spoke at the 1958 ICM in Edinburgh.  He then moved to Univ Wisconsin at Madison (1959-1993), supervising 17 PhD students, including Dubliner Phil Kavanagh.

Wikipedia / Obit / LMS


09. Ludvik Bass (1931-2022) was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia, and was educated at the Univ of Vienna (PhD 1954).  His thesis on "Mathematische Theorie der Mahlvorgänge" (the mathematical theory of griding) was done under Hans Thirring.  His career was spent at DIAS (1954-1956), TCD (1956-1961), Lanchester College of Tech in Coventry (1961-1965), followed by 3 decades at the Univ of Queensland in Brisbane (1965-1994).  His earlier research in engineering maths and statistical mechanics gave way to mathematical biology. His extensive work on drugs affecting the liver lead to his becoming a Member of the Royal Danish Academy of Science and Letters.

UQ / ResearchGate / GoogleScholar / Death



10. Atomic physicist John Hughes was born 28 August in Belfast, and was educated at QUB (BSc 1975, PhD 1978), his thesis on "Non-adiabatic Transitions in Ion-Atom Collision" being done with Derrick Crothers.  His career started at QUB (1980-1983) and IAEA Vienna (1983-1985), followed by a long spell at UU Jordanstown (1991-2004). He then served as both president of Maynooth and pro vice chancellor of NUI (2004-2010), and finally as vice chancellor of Bangor (2010-2018) .

Wikipedia / LinkedIn


11. Theoretical physicist Ralph Kenna was born 27 August on the Roscommon side of Athlone, and was educated at first at TCD (BA 1985, MSc 1988).  His 1993 Dr rer Nat on "Nullstellen der Zustandssumme und Renormierungsgruppen-Analyse im ϕ^4_4 Modell" ("Zeros of the Partition Function and Renormalization-Group Analysis of the \phi^4_4 Model") was done under Christian Lang at Graz.  After several years each at Liverpool and TCD, in 2002 he settled at Coventry.  His interests include phase transitions in statistical mechanics and critical phenomena, as well as digital humanities and sociphysics.  He has supervised 8 PhD students and co-authored the book Maths Meets Myths: Quantitative Approaches to Ancient Narratives (2017). In 2019, he was awarded Doctor Honoris Causa by the National Academy of Sciences in Ukraine

Wikipedia / Coventry / Ukraine


11. Astronomer David Hobbs was born 31 January in Gorey, Wexford, and was educated at IT Carlow & the University of Essex (BSc 1991) and TCD (PhD 1995).  His thesis on "" was done under Denis Weaire].  His career has been spent at Captec, Dublin (1995-1998), Univ Vienna (1998-2000), TERMA, Denmark (2001-2006), and since 2007 at Lund Observatory in Sweden. His research interests are in space astrometry.

Advisor / Lund


12. Adrian Constantin was born 22 April in Temeswar, Romania. He was educated at the University of Nice Sophia-Antipolis (BSc 1991, MSc 1992) and at NYU (PhD, 1996).  His thesis on "The Periodic Problem for the Camassa-Holm Equation" was done under Henry McKean.  He taught at Zurich, at Newcastle upon Tyne, and at the Univ of Lund, before serving as Erasmus Smith's Prof of Maths (2004–2008) at TCD. Since then he has been at the Univ of Vienna.  He also had a chair at King's College London (2011-2014).

Wikipedia / Wien


13. Gregory Temnov was born in Russia and was educated at St Petersburg State Univ (MSc astrophysics 2000, PhD 2004).  His thesis on "Mathematical Models and Stochastic Income in the Risk and Insurance Theory" was done under Lev Klebanov.  His career started with stints at Vienna (2006-2008), UCC (2010-2015), and Charles Univ in Prague (2015-2016).  Since then he has worked as an investor and trader in Dublin.

LinkedIn / ResearchGate


14. Thomas Kaltenbrunner was born in Austria and was educated at Univ Vienna (Mag in physics 2009) and Maynooth (PhD 2014).  His thesis on "Emergent Phenomena in Matrix Models" was done under Brian Dolan & Denjoe O'Connor.  His career so far has been spent in data analytics in London.



15. Riccardo Rastelli was born in Italy and was educated at first at Univ L'Aquila (2011) and Sapienza (MSc in stats, 2013).  His UCD PhD on "Latent Variable Models for Networks and Finite Mixture Distributions" was done under Nial Friel. After a postdoc in Vienna, he joined the staff at UCD.

UCD / ReseachGate / GoogleScholar


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