"From henceforth, space by itself, and time by itself, have vanished into the merest shadows and only a kind of blend of the two exists in its own right."

Hermann Minkowski was born on June 22, 1864 in the town of Alexotas in what was once the Russian Empire (now Kaunas, Lithuania). He studied at the Universities of Berlin and Königsberg, recieving his doctorate from Königsberg in 1885. He taught at several universities, in Bonn, Königsberg and Zurich. In Zurich, Albert Einstein was a student in several of his courses. Minkowski once said of Einstein, "The mathematical education of the young physicist (Einstein) was not very solid, which I am in a good position to evaluate since he obtained it from me in Zurich some time ago." Minkowski was also a teacher of Max Born. He settled down in 1902 after accepting a chair in the mathematics department at the University of Göttingen in Germany, where he stayed for the rest of his life.

It was in Göttingen that Minkowski entered into the field that would be his life's work. He learned mathematical physics from David Hilbert, and participated in a seminar on electron theory in 1905, diving into the field of electrodynamics. By 1907, Minkowski had realized that the work of Hendrik A. Lorentz and his former pupil Albert Einstein would be best understood in a non-euclidean space - three flat dimensions were simply too rigid. Minkoski was the first to consider the abstract concepts of space and time to be linked in a four-dimensional 'space-time continuum'. This 4-D treatment of electrodyinamics was published in his work Raum und Zeit (Time and Space) that same year, and provied the framework for later mathematical work in relativity. Einstein used this "Minkowski space" in developing his paper Relativity: The Special and General Theory (see Einstein's General Theory of Relativity.

Hermann Minkowski died suddenly from a ruptured appendix in 1909, in Göttingen. He was 44.


Source: The University of St. Andrews at http://www-groups.dcs.st-andrews.ac.uk/~history/Mathematicians/Minkowski.html

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