Gerhard Gentzen

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Gerhard Karl Erich Gentzen (November 24, 1909, Greifswald, Germany – August 4, 1945, Prague, Czechoslovakia) was a German mathematician and logician. He had his major contributions in the foundation of mathematics, proof theory, especially on natural deduction and sequent calculus. He died in 1945 after the Second World War, because he was deprived of food after being arrested in Prague.


Life and career

Gentzen was a student of Paul Bernays at the University of Göttingen. Bernays was fired as "non-Aryan" in April 1933 and therefore Hermann Weyl formally acted as his supervisor. At great risk to his career Gentzen kept in contact with Bernays until the beginning of the second world war. In November 1933, he joined the Sturmabteilung to pass the state exam for teachers.[citation needed] In 1935, he corresponded with Abraham Fraenkel from Jerusalem and was implicated by the Nazi teachers' union as one who "keeps contacts to the Chosen People." In 1935 and 1936, Hermann Weyl, head of the Göttingen mathematics department in 1933 until his resignation under Nazi pressure, made strong efforts to bring him to the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.

Between November 1935 and 1939 he was an assistant of David Hilbert in Göttingen. To be able to take part in a congress in Paris in 1937, he had to join the NSDAP.[citation needed] One of Gentzen's papers had a second publication in the ill-famed Deutsche Mathematik that was founded by Ludwig Bieberbach who promoted "Aryan" mathematics.[1]

From 1943 he was a teacher at the University of Prague.[2] After the war he starved to death in Prague, after being arrested like all other Germans in Prague on May 7, 1945 and deprived of food.[3]

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