Hermann Minkowski (1864-1909)

Russian mathematician, born on 22 June 1864 in Alexotas, Russian Empire. (Alexotas is now Kaunas, Lithuania). Minkowski studied at the universities of Berlin and Königsberg. He lectured at several universities, including Bonn, Königsberg and Zurich, before taking up a chair at the University of Göttingen in 1902.

Minkowski developed a geometrical approach to number theory. This explored how different shapes could be placed in multidimensional space and led to his 1907 work on developing mathematical tools for formulating Einstein’s special theory of relativity. Minkowski described a four-dimensional geometry, in which space and time were linked as a 'space-time continuum'. This so-called ‘Minkowski space’ became the mathematical framework for further development of the theory of relativity.

Ironically, while at lecturing at Zurich Minkowski had taught the young Einstein, and is said to have described him as ‘a lazy dog with no interest in mathematics’. Minkowski died on 12 Jan 1909 in Göttingen, Germany.