Emil Artin
Emil Artin was an Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

People of the United States
The people of the United States, also known as simply Americans or American people, are the inhabitants or citizens of the United States. The United States is a multi-ethnic nation, home to people of different ethnic and national backgrounds...

A mathematician is a person whose primary area of study is the field of mathematics. Mathematicians are concerned with quantity, structure, space, and change....

 of Armenian
Armenian people or Armenians are a nation and ethnic group native to the Armenian Highland.The largest concentration is in Armenia having a nearly-homogeneous population with 97.9% or 3,145,354 being ethnic Armenian....



Emil Artin was born in Vienna
Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...

 to parents Emma Maria, née Laura (stage name Clarus), a soubrette on the operetta stages of Austria and Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, and Emil Hadochadus Maria Artin, Austrian-born of Armenian descent. Several documents, including Emil’s birth certificate, list the father’s occupation as “opera singer” though others list it as “art dealer.” It seems at least plausible that he and Emma had met as colleagues in the theater. They had been married in St. Stephen's Parish on July 24, 1895.

Early education

Emil entered school in September 1904, presumably in Vienna. By then, his father was already suffering symptoms of advanced syphilis
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the spirochete bacterium Treponema pallidum subspecies pallidum. The primary route of transmission is through sexual contact; however, it may also be transmitted from mother to fetus during pregnancy or at birth, resulting in congenital syphilis...

, among them increasing mental instability, and was eventually institutionalized at the recently established (and imperially sponsored) insane asylum at Mauer Öhling, 125 kilometers west of Vienna. It is notable that neither wife nor child contracted this highly infectious disease. The senior Emil Artin died there July 20, 1906. Young Emil was eight.

On July 15, 1907, Emil’s mother remarried—her second husband, Rudolf Hübner a prosperous manufacturer in the German-speaking city of Reichenberg, Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia or Czecho-Slovakia was a sovereign state in Central Europe which existed from October 1918, when it declared its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, until 1992...

 (now Liberec
Liberec is a city in the Czech Republic. Located on the Lusatian Neisse and surrounded by the Jizera Mountains and Ještěd-Kozákov Ridge, it is the fifth-largest city in the Czech Republic....

, in the Czech Republic). Documentary evidence suggests that Emma had already been resident in Reichenberg the previous year, and in deference to her new husband, she had abandoned her vocal career. Hübner deemed a life in the theater unseemly in the wife of a man of his position.

In September, 1907, Emil entered the Volksschule in Strobnitz, a small town in southern Czechoslovakia near the Austrian border. For that year, he lived away from home, boarding on a local farm. The following year, he returned to the home of his mother and stepfather, and entered the Realschule in Reichenberg, where he pursued his secondary education to June, 1916.

In Reichenberg, Emil formed a life-long friendship with a young neighbor, Arthur Baer, who became an astronomer, teaching for many years at Cambridge University. Astronomy was an interest the two boys shared already at this time. They each had telescopes. They also rigged a telegraph between their houses, over which once Baer excitedly reported to his friend an astronomical discovery he thought he had made—perhaps a supernova, he thought—and told Emil where in the sky to look. Emil tapped back the terse reply “A-N-D-R-O-M-E-D-A N-E-B-E-L.” (Andromeda nebula
Andromeda Galaxy
The Andromeda Galaxy is a spiral galaxy approximately 2.5 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Andromeda. It is also known as Messier 31, M31, or NGC 224, and is often referred to as the Great Andromeda Nebula in older texts. Andromeda is the nearest spiral galaxy to the...


Emil’s academic performance in the first years at the Realschule was spotty. Up to the end of the 1911–1912 school year, for instance, his grade in mathematics was merely “genügend,” (satisfactory). Of his mathematical inclinations at this early period he later wrote, “Meine eigene Vorliebe zur Mathematik zeigte sich erst im sechzehnten Lebensjahr, während vorher von irgendeiner Anlage dazu überhaupt nicht die Rede sein konnte.” (“My own predilection for mathematics manifested itself only in my sixteenth year, whereas earlier there was absolutely no question of any particular aptitude for it.”) His grade in French for 1912 was actually “nicht genügend” (unsatisfactory). He did rather better work in physics and chemistry. But from 1910 to 1912, his grade for “Comportment” was “nicht genügend.”

Emil spent the school year 1912–1913 away from home, in France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, a period he spoke of later as one of the happiest of his life. He lived that year with the family of Edmond Fritz, in the vicinity of Paris, and attended a school there. When he returned from France to Reichenberg, his academic work markedly improved, and he began consistently receiving grades of “gut” or “sehr gut” (good or very good) in virtually all subjects—including French and “Comportment.” By the time he completed studies at the Realschule in June, 1916, he was awarded the Reifezeugnis (diploma—not to be confused with the Abitur) that affirmed him “reif mit Auszeichnung” (qualified with distinction) for graduation to a technical university.

University education

Now that it was time to move on to university studies, Emil was no doubt content to leave Reichenberg, for relations with his stepfather were clouded. According to him, Hübner reproached him “day and night” as a financial burden, and even when Emil became a university lecturer and then a professor, Hübner deprecated his academic career as self-indulgent and belittled its paltry remuneration.

In October, 1916, Emil matriculated at the University of Vienna
University of Vienna
The University of Vienna is a public university located in Vienna, Austria. It was founded by Duke Rudolph IV in 1365 and is the oldest university in the German-speaking world...

, having focused by now on mathematics. He studied there with Philipp Furtwängler
Philipp Furtwängler
Philipp Furtwängler was a German number theorist.He wrote an 1896 doctoral dissertation at the University of Göttingen on cubic forms , under Felix Klein...

, and also took courses in astrophysics
Astrophysics is the branch of astronomy that deals with the physics of the universe, including the physical properties of celestial objects, as well as their interactions and behavior...

 and Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...


Studies at Vienna were interrupted when Emil was drafted in June, 1918 into the Austrian army (his Army photo ID is dated July 1, 1918). Assigned to the K.u. K. 44th Infantry Regiment, he was stationed northwest of Venice at Primolano, on the Italian
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 front in the foothills of the Dolomites
The Dolomites are a mountain range located in north-eastern Italy. It is a part of Southern Limestone Alps and extends from the River Adige in the west to the Piave Valley in the east. The northern and southern borders are defined by the Puster Valley and the Sugana Valley...

. To his great relief, Emil managed to avoid combat by volunteering for service as a translator—his ignorance of Italian notwithstanding. He did know French, of course, and some Latin, was generally a quick study, and was motivated by a highly rational fear in a theater of that war that had all too often proven a meat-grinder. In his scramble to learn at least some Italian, Emil had recourse to an encyclopedia, which he once consulted for help in controlling the cockroaches infesting the Austrian barracks. At some length, the article described a variety of elaborate methods, concluding finally with—Emil laughingly recalled in later years—“la caccia diretta" ("the direct hunt"). Indeed, “la caccia diretta” was the straight-forward method he and his fellow infantrymen adopted.

Emil survived both war and vermin on the Italian front, and returned late in 1918 to the University of Vienna, where he remained through Easter of the following year.

By June 1919, he had moved to Leipzig and matriculated at the University there as a "Class 2 Auditor" ("Hörer zweiter Ordnung"). Late the same year, Emil undertook the formality of standing for a qualifying examination by an academic board of the Oberrealschule in Leipzig
Leipzig Leipzig has always been a trade city, situated during the time of the Holy Roman Empire at the intersection of the Via Regia and Via Imperii, two important trade routes. At one time, Leipzig was one of the major European centres of learning and culture in fields such as music and publishing...

, which he passed with the grade of “gut” (good), receiving for the second time the Reifezeugnis (diploma attesting the equivalence of satisfactory completion of 6 years at a Realschule). How this Leipzig Reifezeugnis differed technically from the one he had been granted at Reichenberg is unclear from the document, but it apparently qualified him to matriculate as a regular student at the University, which normally required the Abitur.

From 1919 to June 1921, Emil pursued mostly mathematical studies at Leipzig. His principal teacher and dissertation advisor was Gustav Herglotz
Gustav Herglotz
Gustav Herglotz was a German mathematician. He is best known for his works on the theory of relativity and seismology....

. Additionally, Emil took courses in chemistry and various fields of physics
Physics is a natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through spacetime, along with related concepts such as energy and force. More broadly, it is the general analysis of nature, conducted in order to understand how the universe behaves.Physics is one of the oldest academic...

, including mechanics
Mechanics is the branch of physics concerned with the behavior of physical bodies when subjected to forces or displacements, and the subsequent effects of the bodies on their environment....

, atomic theory
Atomic theory
In chemistry and physics, atomic theory is a theory of the nature of matter, which states that matter is composed of discrete units called atoms, as opposed to the obsolete notion that matter could be divided into any arbitrarily small quantity...

, quantum theory
Quantum mechanics
Quantum mechanics, also known as quantum physics or quantum theory, is a branch of physics providing a mathematical description of much of the dual particle-like and wave-like behavior and interactions of energy and matter. It departs from classical mechanics primarily at the atomic and subatomic...

, Maxwellian theory
Maxwell's equations
Maxwell's equations are a set of partial differential equations that, together with the Lorentz force law, form the foundation of classical electrodynamics, classical optics, and electric circuits. These fields in turn underlie modern electrical and communications technologies.Maxwell's equations...

, radioactivity, and astrophysics
Astrophysics is the branch of astronomy that deals with the physics of the universe, including the physical properties of celestial objects, as well as their interactions and behavior...

. In June, 1921 he was awarded the Doctor of Philosophy degree, based on his “excellent” dissertation, “Quadratische Körper im Gebiete der höheren Kongruenzen“ ("On the Arithmetic of Quadratic Function Fields over Finite Fields"), and the oral examination which—his diploma affirms—he had passed three days earlier “with extraordinary success.”

In the fall of 1921, Emil moved to Göttingen
Göttingen is a university town in Lower Saxony, Germany. It is the capital of the district of Göttingen. The Leine river runs through the town. In 2006 the population was 129,686.-General information:...

, considered the Mecca of mathematics at the time, where he pursued one year of post-doctoral studies in mathematics and mathematical physics with Richard Courant
Richard Courant
Richard Courant was a German American mathematician.- Life :Courant was born in Lublinitz in the German Empire's Prussian Province of Silesia. During his youth, his parents had to move quite often, to Glatz, Breslau, and in 1905 to Berlin. He stayed in Breslau and entered the university there...

 and David Hilbert
David Hilbert
David Hilbert was a German mathematician. He is recognized as one of the most influential and universal mathematicians of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Hilbert discovered and developed a broad range of fundamental ideas in many areas, including invariant theory and the axiomatization of...

. While at Göttingen, he worked closely with Emmy Noether
Emmy Noether
Amalie Emmy Noether was an influential German mathematician known for her groundbreaking contributions to abstract algebra and theoretical physics. Described by David Hilbert, Albert Einstein and others as the most important woman in the history of mathematics, she revolutionized the theories of...

 and Helmut Hasse
Helmut Hasse
Helmut Hasse was a German mathematician working in algebraic number theory, known for fundamental contributions to class field theory, the application of p-adic numbers to local classfield theory and diophantine geometry , and to local zeta functions.-Life:He was born in Kassel, and died in...


Aside from consistently good school grades in singing, the first documentary evidence of Emil’s deep and life-long engagement with music comes from the year in Göttingen, where he was regularly invited to join in the chamber music sessions hosted by Richard Courant
Richard Courant
Richard Courant was a German American mathematician.- Life :Courant was born in Lublinitz in the German Empire's Prussian Province of Silesia. During his youth, his parents had to move quite often, to Glatz, Breslau, and in 1905 to Berlin. He stayed in Breslau and entered the university there...

. He played all the keyboard instruments, and was an especially accomplished flautist, although it is not known exactly by what instruction he had achieved proficiency on these instruments. He became especially devoted to the music of J. S. Bach.

Professorship at Hamburg

Courant arranged for Emil to receive a stipend for the summer of 1922 in Göttingen, which occasioned his declining a position offered him at the University of Kiel
University of Kiel
The University of Kiel is a university in the city of Kiel, Germany. It was founded in 1665 as the Academia Holsatorum Chiloniensis by Christian Albert, Duke of Holstein-Gottorp and has approximately 23,000 students today...

. The following October, however, he accepted an equivalent position at Hamburg
-History:The first historic name for the city was, according to Claudius Ptolemy's reports, Treva.But the city takes its modern name, Hamburg, from the first permanent building on the site, a castle whose construction was ordered by the Emperor Charlemagne in AD 808...

, where in 1923, he completed the Habilitation thesis (required of aspirants to a professorship in Germany), and on July 24 advanced to the rank of Privatdozent
Privatdozent or Private lecturer is a title conferred in some European university systems, especially in German-speaking countries, for someone who pursues an academic career and holds all formal qualifications to become a tenured university professor...


On April 1, 1925, Emil was promoted to Associate Professor (außerordentlicher Professor). In this year also, Emil applied for and was granted German citizenship. He was promoted to full Professor (ordentlicher Professor) on October 15, 1926.

Early in the summer of 1925, Emil attended the Congress of the Wandervogel youth movement at Wilhelmshausen near Kassel
Kassel is a town located on the Fulda River in northern Hesse, Germany. It is the administrative seat of the Kassel Regierungsbezirk and the Kreis of the same name and has approximately 195,000 inhabitants.- History :...

 with the intention of gathering a congenial group to undertake a trek through Iceland
Iceland , described as the Republic of Iceland, is a Nordic and European island country in the North Atlantic Ocean, on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Iceland also refers to the main island of the country, which contains almost all the population and almost all the land area. The country has a population...

 later that summer. Iceland (before the transforming presence of American and British forces stationed there during WWII) was still a primitive country in 1925, with a thinly scattered population and little transportation infrastructure. Emil succeeded in finding six young men to join him in this adventure. In the second half of August, 1925, the group set out by steamer from Hamburg, first to Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

, where they boarded a second steamer that took them to Iceland, stopping in several of the east fjords before arriving at their destination, Husavik
Husavik is a village in Austevoll municipality, Norway. It is located in the district Vestre Vinnesvåg south on the island Huftarøy....

 in the north of the island. Here the Wandervogel group disembarked, their initial goal trekking down the Laxá River to Lake Myvatn. They made a circuit of the large, irregular lake, staying in farm houses, barns, and occasionally a tent as they went. When they slept in barns, it was often on piles of wet straw or hay. On those lucky occasions when they slept in beds, it could be nearly as damp on account of the rain trickling through the sod roofs. The tent leaked as well.

Emil kept a meticulous journal of this trip, making daily entries in a neat, minuscule hand. He and several of the young men had brought cameras, so that the trek is documented also by nearly 200 small photographs. Emil’s journal attests to his over-arching interest in the geology of this mid-Atlantic island, situated over the boundary of two tectonic plates whose shifting relation makes it geologically hyperactive.

In keeping with the Wandervogel ethos, Emil and his companions carried music with them wherever they visited. The young men had packed guitars and violins, and Emil played the harmoniums common in the isolated farmsteads where they found lodging. The group regularly entertained their Icelandic hosts, not in full exchange for board and lodging, to be sure, but for goodwill certainly, and occasioning sometimes even a little extra on their plates and a modestly discounted tariff.

From Lake Myvatn, Emil and his companions headed west towards Akureyri, passing the large waterfall Goðafoss on the way. From Akureyri, they trekked west down the Öxnadalur (Ox Valley) intending to rent pack horses and cross the high and barren interior by foot to Reykjavik
Reykjavík is the capital and largest city in Iceland.Its latitude at 64°08' N makes it the world's northernmost capital of a sovereign state. It is located in southwestern Iceland, on the southern shore of Faxaflói Bay...

. By the time they reached the lower end of Skagafjörður, however, they were persuaded by a local farmer from whom they had hoped to rent the horses that a cross-country trek was by then impracticable since, with the approach of winter, highland routes were already snow-bound and impassable. Instead of turning south, then, they turned north to Siglufjörður, where they boarded another steamer that took them around the western peninsula and down the coast to Reykjavik. From Reykjavik, they returned via Norway to Hamburg. By Emil’s calculation the distance they had covered on foot through Iceland totaled 450 kilometers.

Early in 1926, the University of Münster
University of Münster
The University of Münster is a public university located in the city of Münster, North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany. The WWU is part of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, a society of Germany's leading research universities...

 offered Emil a professorial position; however, Hamburg matched the offer financially, and (as noted above) promoted him to full professor, making him (along with his young colleague Helmut Hasse) one of the two youngest professors of mathematics in Germany.

It was in this period that he acquired his lifelong nickname, “Ma,” short for mathematics, which he came to prefer to his given name, and by which virtually everyone who knew him well called him. Although the nickname might seem to imply a narrow intellectual focus, quite the reverse was true of Emil. Even his teaching at the University of Hamburg went beyond the strict boundaries of mathematics to include mechanics and relativity theory. He kept up on a serious level with advances in astronomy, chemistry and biology (he owned and used a fine microscope), and the circle of his friends in Hamburg attests to the catholicity of his interests. It included the painter Heinrich Stegemann, and the author and organ-builder Hans Henny Jahn. Stegemann was a particularly close friend, and made portraits of Emil, Natascha and the two children born in Hamburg. Music continued to play a central role in his life; he acquired a Neupert double manual harpsichord
A harpsichord is a musical instrument played by means of a keyboard. It produces sound by plucking a string when a key is pressed.In the narrow sense, "harpsichord" designates only the large wing-shaped instruments in which the strings are perpendicular to the keyboard...

, and a clavichord
The clavichord is a European stringed keyboard instrument known from the late Medieval, through the Renaissance, Baroque and Classical eras. Historically, it was widely used as a practice instrument and as an aid to composition, not being loud enough for larger performances. The clavichord produces...

 made by the Hamburg builder Walter Ebeloe, as well as a silver flute
The flute is a musical instrument of the woodwind family. Unlike woodwind instruments with reeds, a flute is an aerophone or reedless wind instrument that produces its sound from the flow of air across an opening...

 made in Hamburg by G. Urban. Chamber music gatherings became a regular event at the Artin apartment as they had been at the Courants in Göttingen.

On August 15, 1929, Emil married Natalia Naumovna Jasny (Natascha), a young Russian
The Russian people are an East Slavic ethnic group native to Russia, speaking the Russian language and primarily living in Russia and neighboring countries....

 émigré who had been a student in several of his classes. One of their shared interests was photography, and when Emil bought a Leica for their joint use (a Leica A, the first commercial model of this legendary camera), Natascha began chronicling the life of the family, as well as the city of Hamburg. For the next decade, she made a series of artful and expressive portraits of Emil that remain by far the best images of him taken at any age. Emil, in turn, took many fine and evocative portraits of Natascha. Lacking access to a professional darkroom, their films and prints had to be developed in a makeshift darkroom set up each time (and then dismantled again) in the small bathroom of whatever apartment they were occupying. The makeshift darkroom notwithstanding, the high artistic level of the resulting photographic prints is attested to by the exhibit of Natascha’s photographs mounted in 2001 by the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
The Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe is a museum of fine, applied and decorative arts in Hamburg, Germany. It is located centrally, near the Hauptbahnhof.-History:...

, and its accompanying catalogue, “Hamburg—Wie Ich Es Sah.”

In 1930, Emil was offered a professorship at ETH (Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule) in Zürich, to replace Hermann Weyl, who had moved to Göttingen. He chose to remain at Hamburg, however. Two years later, in 1932, for contributions leading to the advancement of mathematics, Emil was honored—jointly with Emmy Noether—with the award of the Alfred Ackermann-Teubner Memorial Prize, which carried a grant of 500 marks.

Nazi period

In January 1933—a tragically fateful month in German history—Natascha gave birth to their first child, Karin. A year and a half later, in the summer of 1934, son Michael
Michael Artin
Michael Artin is an American mathematician and a professor emeritus in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology mathematics department, known for his contributions to algebraic geometry. and also generally recognized as one of the outstanding professors in his field.Artin was born in Hamburg,...

 was born. The political climate at Hamburg was not so poisonous as that at Göttingen, where by 1935 the mathematics department had been purged of Jewish and dissident professors. Still, Emil’s situation became increasingly precarious, not only because Natascha was half Jewish, but also because Emil made no secret of his distaste for the Hitler regime. At one point Blaschke, by then a Nazi Party member, but nonetheless solicitous of the Artins’ well-being, warned Emil discreetly to close his classroom door so his frankly anti-Nazi comments couldn’t be heard by passersby in the hallway.

Natascha recalled going down to the newsstand on the corner one day and being warned in hushed tones by the man from whom she and Emil bought their paper that a man had daily been watching their apartment from across the street. Once tipped off, she and Emil became very aware of the watcher (Natascha liked to refer to him as their “spy”), and even rather enjoyed the idea of his being forced to follow them on the long walks they loved taking in the afternoons to a café far out in the countryside.

Toying with their watcher on a fine Autumn afternoon was one thing, but the atmosphere was in fact growing inexorably serious. Natascha’s Jewish father and her sister, seeing the handwriting on the wall, had already left for the U.S. in the summer of 1933. As half-Jewish, Natascha’s status was, if not ultimately quite hopeless, certainly not good. Hasse, like Blaschke a nationalistic supporter of the regime, had applied for Party membership, but was nonetheless no anti-Semite. Besides he was a long-time friend and colleague of Emil’s. He suggested that the two Artin children—only one quarter Jewish, or in Nazi terminology, “Mischlinge zweiten Grades”—might, if a few strategic strings could be pulled, be officially “aryanized.” Hasse offered to exert his influence with the Ministry of Education (Kultur- und Schulbehörde, Hochschulwesen), and Emil—not daring to leave any stone unturned, especially with respect to the safety of his children—went along with this effort. He asked his father-in-law, by then resident in Washington D.C., to draft and have notarized an affidavit attesting to the Christian lineage of his late wife, Natascha’s mother. Emil submitted this affidavit to the Ministry of Education, but to no avail.

By this time, to be precise, on July 15, 1937, because of Natascha’s status as “Mischling ersten Grades,” Emil had lost his post at the University—technically, compelled into early retirement—on the grounds of paragraph 6 of the Act to Restore the Professional Civil Service (Gesetz zur Wiederherstellung des Berufsbeamtentums) of April 7, 1933. Ironically, he had applied only some months earlier, on February 8, 1937, for a leave of absence from the University in order to accept a position offered him at Stanford. On March 15, 1937, the response had come back denying his application for leave on the grounds that his services to the University were indispensable (“Da die Tätigkeit des Professors Dr. Artin an der Universität Hamburg nicht entbehrt werden kann. . .”).

By July, when he was summarily “retired,” (“in Ruhestand versetzt”) the position at Stanford had been filled. However, through the efforts of Richard Courant (by then in New York), and Solomon Lefschetz at Princeton, a position was found for him at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana.

Emigration to the U.S.

The family must have worked feverishly to prepare for emigration to the United States, for this entailed among other things packing their entire household for shipment. Since German law forbade emigrants taking more than a token sum of money out of the country, the Artins sank all the funds at their disposal into shipping their entire household, from beds, tables, chairs and double-manual harpsichord down to the last kitchen knife, cucumber slicer, and potato masher to their new home. This is why each of their residences in the United States bore such a striking resemblance to the rooms photographed so beautifully by Natascha in their Hamburg apartment (see Natascha A. Brunswick, “Hamburg: Wie Ich Es Sah,” Dokumente der Photographie 6, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
The Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe is a museum of fine, applied and decorative arts in Hamburg, Germany. It is located centrally, near the Hauptbahnhof.-History:...

, 2001, pp. 48–53) .

On the morning they were to board the Hamburg-Amerika line ship in Bremerhaven
Bremerhaven is a city at the seaport of the free city-state of Bremen, a state of the Federal Republic of Germany. It forms an enclave in the state of Lower Saxony and is located at the mouth of the River Weser on its eastern bank, opposite the town of Nordenham...

, October 21, 1937, daughter Karin woke with a high temperature. Terrified that should this opportunity be missed, the window of escape from Nazi Germany might close forever, Emil and Natascha chose to risk somehow getting Karin past emigration and customs officials without their noticing her condition. They managed to conceal Karin’s feverish state, and without incident boarded the ship, as many left behind were tragically never able to do. When they landed a week later at Hoboken
Hoboken may refer to:*Hoboken, New Jersey, United States*Hoboken, Antwerp, a district of Antwerp, Belgium*Hoboken, Georgia, United States*Hoboken, Alabama, United States*"Hoboken", a song on Operation Ivy's 1988 album Hectic-See also:...

, Richard Courant and Natascha’s father, the Russian agronomist Naum Jasny (then working for the U.S. Department of Agriculture) were on the dock to welcome the family to the United States.

Bloomington years

It was early November, 1937 by the time they arrived in South Bend, where Emil joined the faculty at Notre Dame, and taught for the rest of that academic year. He was offered a permanent position the following year 170 miles to the south at Indiana University, in Bloomington. Shortly after the family resettled there, a second son, Thomas, was born on November 12, 1938.

After moving to Bloomington, Emil quickly acquired a piano, and soon after that a Hammond Organ
Hammond organ
The Hammond organ is an electric organ invented by Laurens Hammond in 1934 and manufactured by the Hammond Organ Company. While the Hammond organ was originally sold to churches as a lower-cost alternative to the wind-driven pipe organ, in the 1960s and 1970s it became a standard keyboard...

, a recently invented electronic instrument that simulated the sound of a pipe organ. He wanted this instrument in order primarily to play the works of J. S. Bach, and because the pedal set that came with the production model had a range of only two octaves (not quite wide enough for all the Bach pieces), he set about extending its range. Music was a constant presence in the Artin household. Karin played the cello, and then the piano as well, and Michael played the violin. As in Hamburg, the Artin living room was regularly the venue for amateur chamber music performances.

The circle of the Artins’ University friends reflected Emil’s wide cultural and intellectual interests. Notable among them were Alfred Kinsey
Alfred Kinsey
Alfred Charles Kinsey was an American biologist and professor of entomology and zoology, who in 1947 founded the Institute for Sex Research at Indiana University, now known as the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction, as well as producing the Kinsey Reports and the Kinsey...

 and his wife of the Psychology Department, as well as prominent members of the Fine Arts, Art History, Anthropology, German Literature, and Music Departments. For several summer semesters, Emil accepted teaching positions at other universities, viz., Stanford in 1939 and 1940, The University of Michigan
University of Michigan
The University of Michigan is a public research university located in Ann Arbor, Michigan in the United States. It is the state's oldest university and the flagship campus of the University of Michigan...

 at Ann Arbor in 1941 and 1951, and The University of Colorado, in Boulder, in 1953. On each of these occasions, the family accompanied him.

Emil insisted that only German be spoken in the house. Even Tom, born in the U.S., spoke German as his first language, acquiring English only from his siblings and his playmates in the neighborhood; for the first four or five years of his life, he spoke English with a pronounced German accent. Consistent with his program of maintaining the family’s German cultural heritage, Emil gave high priority to regularly reading German literature aloud to the children. The text was frequently from Goethe's autobiographical "Dichtung und Wahrheit," or his poems, "Erlkönig," for instance. Occasionally, he would read from an English text. Favorites were Mark Twain
Mark Twain
Samuel Langhorne Clemens , better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist...

's "Tom Sawyer," Charles Dickens
Charles Dickens
Charles John Huffam Dickens was an English novelist, generally considered the greatest of the Victorian period. Dickens enjoyed a wider popularity and fame than had any previous author during his lifetime, and he remains popular, having been responsible for some of English literature's most iconic...

’s “A Christmas Carol
A Christmas Carol
A Christmas Carol is a novella by English author Charles Dickens first published by Chapman & Hall on 17 December 1843. The story tells of sour and stingy Ebenezer Scrooge's ideological, ethical, and emotional transformation after the supernatural visits of Jacob Marley and the Ghosts of...

,” and Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde
Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was an Irish writer and poet. After writing in different forms throughout the 1880s, he became one of London's most popular playwrights in the early 1890s...

’s “The Canterville Ghost.” For the Artin children, these readings replaced radio entertainment, which was strictly banned from the house. There was a radio, but (with the notable exception of Sunday morning broadcasts by E. Power Biggs
E. Power Biggs
Edward George Power Biggs , more familiarly known as E. Power Biggs, was a British-born American concert organist and recording artist.-Biography:...

 from the organ at the Busch-Reisinger Museum in Cambridge, to which Emil and Natascha listened still lounging in bed) it was switched on only to hear news of the war. Similarly, the Artin household would never in years to come harbor a television set. Once the war had ended, the radio was retired to the rear of a dark closet.

As German citizens, Emil and Natascha were technically classified as enemy aliens for the duration of the war. On April 12, 1945, with the end of the war in Europe only weeks away, they applied for naturalization as American citizens. American citizenship was granted them on February 7, 1946.

On the orders of a Hamburg doctor whom he had consulted about a chronic cough, Emil had given up smoking years before. He had vowed not to smoke so long as Hitler remained in power. On May 8, 1945, at the news of Germany’s surrender and the fall of the Third Reich, Natascha made the mistake of reminding him of this vow, and in lieu of a champagne toast, he indulged in what was to be the smoking of a single cigarette. Unfortunately, the single cigarette led to a second, and another after that. Emil returned to heavy smoking for the rest of his life.

Princeton years

If Göttingen had been the “Mecca” of mathematics in the 1920s and early ‘30s, Princeton, following the decimation of German mathematics under the Nazis, had become the center of the mathematical world in the 1940s. In April, 1946, Emil was appointed Professor at Princeton, at a yearly salary of $8,000. The family moved there in the fall of 1946.

Notable among his graduate students at Princeton are Serge Lang, John Tate, and Timothy O’Meara. Emil chose also to teach the honors section of Freshman calculus each year. He was renowned for the elegance of his teaching. Frei and Roquette write that Artin’s “main medium of communication was teaching and conversation: in groups, seminars and in smaller circles. We have many statements of people near to him describing his unpretentious way of communicating with everybody, demanding quick grasp of the essentials but never tired of explaining the necessary. He was open to all kinds of suggestions, and distributed joyfully what he knew. He liked to teach, also to young students, and his excellent lectures, always well prepared but without written notes, were hailed for their clarity and beauty.” (Emil Artin and Helmut Hasse: Their Correspondence 1923–1934, Introduction.)

Whenever he was asked whether mathematics was a science, Emil would reply unhesitatingly, “No. An art.” His elegant elaboration of this idea is often cited, and worth repeating here: “We all believe that mathematics is an art. The author of a book, the lecturer in a classroom tries to convey the structural beauty of mathematics to his readers, to his listeners. In this attempt, he must always fail. Mathematics is logical to be sure, each conclusion is drawn from previously derived statements. Yet the whole of it, the real piece of art, is not linear; worse than that, its perception should be instantaneous. We have all experienced on some rare occasion the feeling of elation in realizing that we have enabled our listeners to see at a glance the whole architecture and all its ramifications.”

It has even been said—only half in jest—that his lectures could be too perfect, lulling a hearer into believing he had understood and assimilated an idea or a proof which, on waking the following day might seem as remote and chimerical as ever.

During the Princeton years, Emil built a 6 inches (15.2 cm) reflecting telescope to plans he found in “Sky and Telescope” magazine, to which he subscribed. He spent weeks in the basement attempting to grind the mirror to specifications, without success, and his continued failure to get it right led to increasing frustration. Then, in California to give a talk, he made a side trip to the Mt. Wilson Observatory, where he discussed his project with the astronomers. Whether it was their technical advice, or Natascha’s intuitive suggestion that it might be too cold in the basement, and that he should try the procedure upstairs in the warmth of his study (which he did), he completed the grinding of the mirror in a matter of days. With this telescope, he surveyed the night skies over Princeton.

In September 1955, Emil accepted an invitation to visit Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

. From his letters, it is clear he was treated like royalty by the Japanese mathematical community, and was charmed by the country. A confirmed atheist most of his life, he was nonetheless interested in learning about the diverse threads of Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

, and visiting its holy sites. In a letter home he describes his visit to the temples at Nara. “Then we were driven to a place nearby, Horiuji [Horyu-ji] where a very beautiful Buddhist temple is. We were received by the abbot, and a priest translated into English. We obtained the first sensible explanation about modern Buddhism. The difficulty of obtaining such an explanation is enormous. To begin with most Japanese do not know and do not understand our questions. All this is made more complicated by the fact that there are numerous sects and each one has another theory. Since you get your information only piece wise, you cannot put it together. This results in an absurd picture. I am talking of the present day, not of its original form.”

His letter goes on to outline at length the general eschatological framework of Buddhist belief. Then he adds, “By the way, a problem given by the Zen
Zen is a school of Mahāyāna Buddhism founded by the Buddhist monk Bodhidharma. The word Zen is from the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese word Chán , which in turn is derived from the Sanskrit word dhyāna, which can be approximately translated as "meditation" or "meditative state."Zen...

s for meditation is the following: If you clap your hands, does the sound come from the left hand or from the right?”

Return to Hamburg

The following year, Emil took a leave of absence to return to Germany for the first time since emigration, nearly twenty years earlier. He spent the fall semester at Göttingen, and the next at Hamburg. For the Christmas holidays, he travelled to his birthplace, Vienna, to visit his mother, a city he had not seen in decades. In a letter home he described the experience of his return in a single, oddly laconic sentence: “It is kind of amusing to walk through Vienna again.” In 1957, an honorary doctorate was conferred on Emil by the University of Freiburg
University of Freiburg
The University of Freiburg , sometimes referred to in English as the Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg, is a public research university located in Freiburg im Breisgau, Baden-Württemberg, Germany.The university was founded in 1457 by the Habsburg dynasty as the...

. That fall, he returned to Princeton for what would be his final academic year at that institution. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
American Academy of Arts and Sciences
The American Academy of Arts and Sciences is an independent policy research center that conducts multidisciplinary studies of complex and emerging problems. The Academy’s elected members are leaders in the academic disciplines, the arts, business, and public affairs.James Bowdoin, John Adams, and...

 in 1957.

Emil’s marriage to Natascha had by this time seriously frayed. Though nominally still husband and wife, resident in the same house, they were for all intents and purposes living separate lives. Emil was offered a professorship at Hamburg, and at the conclusion of Princeton's spring semester, 1958, he moved permanently to Germany. His decision to leave Princeton University and the United States was complicated, based on multiple factors, prominent among them Princeton's (then operative) mandatory retirement age of 65. Emil had no wish to retire from teaching and direct involvement with students. Hamburg's offer was open-ended.

Emil and Natascha were divorced in 1959. In Hamburg, Emil had taken an apartment, but soon gave it over to his mother whom he had brought from Vienna to live near him in Hamburg. He in turn moved in with Hel Braun into an apartment in the same neighborhood. On January 4, 1961, he was granted German citizenship. In June, 1962, on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of the death Blaise Pascal, the University of Clermont-Ferrand conferred an honorary doctorate on him. On December 20 of the same year, Emil Artin died at home in Hamburg, aged 64, of a heart attack.

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.

Influence and work

He was one of the leading algebraists of the century, with an influence larger than might be guessed from the one volume of his Collected Papers edited by Serge Lang
Serge Lang
Serge Lang was a French-born American mathematician. He was known for his work in number theory and for his mathematics textbooks, including the influential Algebra...

 and John Tate
John Tate
John Torrence Tate Jr. is an American mathematician, distinguished for many fundamental contributions in algebraic number theory, arithmetic geometry and related areas in algebraic geometry.-Biography:...

. He worked in algebraic number theory
Algebraic number theory
Algebraic number theory is a major branch of number theory which studies algebraic structures related to algebraic integers. This is generally accomplished by considering a ring of algebraic integers O in an algebraic number field K/Q, and studying their algebraic properties such as factorization,...

, contributing largely to class field theory
Class field theory
In mathematics, class field theory is a major branch of algebraic number theory that studies abelian extensions of number fields.Most of the central results in this area were proved in the period between 1900 and 1950...

 and a new construction of L-function
The theory of L-functions has become a very substantial, and still largely conjectural, part of contemporary analytic number theory. In it, broad generalisations of the Riemann zeta function and the L-series for a Dirichlet character are constructed, and their general properties, in most cases...

s. He also contributed to the pure theories of rings
Ring (mathematics)
In mathematics, a ring is an algebraic structure consisting of a set together with two binary operations usually called addition and multiplication, where the set is an abelian group under addition and a semigroup under multiplication such that multiplication distributes over addition...

, groups
Group (mathematics)
In mathematics, a group is an algebraic structure consisting of a set together with an operation that combines any two of its elements to form a third element. To qualify as a group, the set and the operation must satisfy a few conditions called group axioms, namely closure, associativity, identity...

 and fields
Field (mathematics)
In abstract algebra, a field is a commutative ring whose nonzero elements form a group under multiplication. As such it is an algebraic structure with notions of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, satisfying certain axioms...

. He developed the theory of braids
Braid theory
In topology, a branch of mathematics, braid theory is an abstract geometric theory studying the everyday braid concept, and some generalizations. The idea is that braids can be organized into groups, in which the group operation is 'do the first braid on a set of strings, and then follow it with a...

 as a branch of algebraic topology
Algebraic topology
Algebraic topology is a branch of mathematics which uses tools from abstract algebra to study topological spaces. The basic goal is to find algebraic invariants that classify topological spaces up to homeomorphism, though usually most classify up to homotopy equivalence.Although algebraic topology...


He was also an important expositor of Galois theory
Galois theory
In mathematics, more specifically in abstract algebra, Galois theory, named after Évariste Galois, provides a connection between field theory and group theory...

, and of the group cohomology
Group cohomology
In abstract algebra, homological algebra, algebraic topology and algebraic number theory, as well as in applications to group theory proper, group cohomology is a way to study groups using a sequence of functors H n. The study of fixed points of groups acting on modules and quotient modules...

 approach to class ring theory (with John Tate
John Tate
John Torrence Tate Jr. is an American mathematician, distinguished for many fundamental contributions in algebraic number theory, arithmetic geometry and related areas in algebraic geometry.-Biography:...

), to mention two theories where his formulations became standard. The influential treatment of abstract algebra
Abstract algebra
Abstract algebra is the subject area of mathematics that studies algebraic structures, such as groups, rings, fields, modules, vector spaces, and algebras...

 by van der Waerden
Bartel Leendert van der Waerden
Bartel Leendert van der Waerden was a Dutch mathematician and historian of mathematics....

 is said to derive in part from Artin's ideas, as well as those of Emmy Noether
Emmy Noether
Amalie Emmy Noether was an influential German mathematician known for her groundbreaking contributions to abstract algebra and theoretical physics. Described by David Hilbert, Albert Einstein and others as the most important woman in the history of mathematics, she revolutionized the theories of...

. He wrote a book on geometric algebra
Geometric algebra
Geometric algebra , together with the associated Geometric calculus, provides a comprehensive alternative approach to the algebraic representation of classical, computational and relativistic geometry. GA now finds application in all of physics, in graphics and in robotics...

 that gave rise to the contemporary use of the term, reviving it from the work of W. K. Clifford
William Kingdon Clifford
William Kingdon Clifford FRS was an English mathematician and philosopher. Building on the work of Hermann Grassmann, he introduced what is now termed geometric algebra, a special case of the Clifford algebra named in his honour, with interesting applications in contemporary mathematical physics...



He left two conjectures, both known as Artin's conjecture. The first concerns Artin L-function
Artin L-function
In mathematics, an Artin L-function is a type of Dirichlet series associated to a linear representation ρ of a Galois group G. These functions were introduced in the 1923 by Emil Artin, in connection with his research into class field theory. Their fundamental properties, in particular the Artin...

s for a linear representation of a Galois group
Galois group
In mathematics, more specifically in the area of modern algebra known as Galois theory, the Galois group of a certain type of field extension is a specific group associated with the field extension...

; and the second
Artin's conjecture on primitive roots
In number theory, Artin's conjecture on primitive roots states that a given integer a which is not a perfect square and not −1 is a primitive root modulo infinitely many primes p. The conjecture also ascribes an asymptotic density to these primes...

 the frequency with which a given integer a is a primitive root
Primitive root modulo n
In modular arithmetic, a branch of number theory, a primitive root modulo n is any number g with the property that any number coprime to n is congruent to a power of g modulo n. In other words, g is a generator of the multiplicative group of integers modulo n...

 modulo primes p, when a is fixed and p varies. These are unproven; Hooley proved a result for the second conditional on the first.

Supervision of research

Artin advised over thirty doctoral students, including Bernard Dwork
Bernard Dwork
Bernard Morris Dwork was an American mathematician, known for his application of p-adic analysis to local zeta functions, and in particular for the first general results on the Weil conjectures. Together with Kenkichi Iwasawa he received the Cole Prize in 1962.Dwork received his Ph.D. at Columbia...

, Serge Lang
Serge Lang
Serge Lang was a French-born American mathematician. He was known for his work in number theory and for his mathematics textbooks, including the influential Algebra...

, K. G. Ramanathan
Kollagunta Gopalaiyer Ramanathan
Kollagunta Gopalaiyer Ramanathan was an Indian mathematician known for his work in number theory. His contributions are also to the general development of mathematical research and teaching in India....

, John Tate
John Tate
John Torrence Tate Jr. is an American mathematician, distinguished for many fundamental contributions in algebraic number theory, arithmetic geometry and related areas in algebraic geometry.-Biography:...

, Hans Zassenhaus
Hans Julius Zassenhaus
Hans Julius Zassenhaus was a German mathematician, known for work in many parts of abstract algebra, and as a pioneer of computer algebra....

 and Max Zorn
Max August Zorn
Max August Zorn was a German-born American mathematician. He was an algebraist, group theorist, and numerical analyst. He is best known for Zorn's lemma, a powerful tool in set theory that is applicable to a wide range of mathematical constructs such as vector spaces, ordered sets, etc...

. A more complete list of his students can be found at the Mathematics Genealogy Project website (see "External Links," below).


In 1932 he married Natascha Jasny, born in Russia to mixed parentage (her mother was Christian, her father, Jewish). Artin was not himself Jewish, but, on account of his wife's racial status in Nazi Germany, was dismissed from his university position in 1937. They had three children, one of whom is Michael Artin
Michael Artin
Michael Artin is an American mathematician and a professor emeritus in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology mathematics department, known for his contributions to algebraic geometry. and also generally recognized as one of the outstanding professors in his field.Artin was born in Hamburg,...

, an American algebraist currently at MIT.

Selected bibliography

  • http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0003-486X%28194701%292%3A48%3A1%3C101%3ATOB%3E2.0.CO%3B2-A Emil Artin, The theory of braids, Annals of Mathematics
    Annals of Mathematics
    The Annals of Mathematics is a bimonthly mathematical journal published by Princeton University and the Institute for Advanced Study. It ranks amongst the most prestigious mathematics journals in the world by criteria such as impact factor.-History:The journal began as The Analyst in 1874 and was...

     (2) 48 (1947), 101 – 126 (Reprinting of second revised edition of 1944, The University of Notre Dame Press).
  • A Freshman Honors Course in Calculus and Analytic Geometry ISBN 0-923891-52-8
  • Emil Artin (1957), Geometric Algebra, Interscience Publishers)
  • Emil Artin (1898–1962) Beiträge zu Leben, Werk und Persönlichkeit, eds., Karin Reich and Alexander Kreuzer (Dr. Erwin Rauner Verlag, Augsburg, 2007).

See also

  • Artin reciprocity
    Artin reciprocity
    The Artin reciprocity law, established by Emil Artin in a series of papers , is a general theorem in number theory that forms a central part of the global class field theory...

  • Artin–Wedderburn theorem
    Artin–Wedderburn theorem
    In abstract algebra, the Artin–Wedderburn theorem is a classification theorem for semisimple rings. The theorem states that an Artinian semisimple ring R is isomorphic to a product of finitely many ni-by-ni matrix rings over division rings Di, for some integers ni, both of which are uniquely...

  • Artin–Zorn theorem
  • Artinian
    In mathematics, Artinian, named for Emil Artin, is an adjective that describes objects that satisfy particular cases of the descending chain condition.*A ring is an Artinian ring if it satisfies the descending chain condition on ideals...

  • Artin's conjecture for conjectures by Artin. These include
  • Artin's conjecture on primitive roots
    Artin's conjecture on primitive roots
    In number theory, Artin's conjecture on primitive roots states that a given integer a which is not a perfect square and not −1 is a primitive root modulo infinitely many primes p. The conjecture also ascribes an asymptotic density to these primes...

  • Artin conjecture on L-functions
  • Artin–Schreier theory
  • Artin group
  • Ankeny–Artin–Chowla congruence
  • Artin billiards
  • Artin–Hasse exponential
  • Artin–Rees lemma
  • Emil Artin Junior Prize in Mathematics
    Emil Artin Junior Prize in Mathematics
    Emil Artin Junior Prize in MathematicsEstablished in 2001, the Emil Artin Junior Prize in Mathematicsis presented usually every year to a former student of anArmenian university, who is under the age of thirty-five,...

External links

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