Dutch Mathematicians

Introduction

The Biographical Dictionary of Dutch Mathematicians (BWNW) is a scientific reference work comprising short descriptions (300-400 words) of the lives of past Dutch mathematicians. Each of the biographies was written by an authority on the subject. The BWNW is an initiative of Hendrik Lenstra of Leiden University. Alex van den Brandhof carried out the first phase of this project from September 2004 to September 2006 within the framework of the ‘teachers in research’ programme (leraar in onderzoek). As of 2009 the BWNW is part of the DWC. Go to the Biographical Dictionary of Dutch Mathematicians (in Dutch)

Background

Accounts of the lives of mathematicians regularly appear in the Nieuw Archief voor Wiskunde(the quarterly journal of the Royal Dutch Mathematical Society), Euclides (an academic journal for mathematics teachers) and in the yearbooks of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. However, these are not always easy to unearth. The Biographical Dictionary of Dutch Mathematicians will make it much simpler to find such information. The editors of the BWNW first made a selection of sixty mathematicians whose inclusion in the Biographical Dictionary was deemed unquestionable. However, as with any selection, this choice of sixty mathematicians contains inconsistencies and omissions. The intention is to steadily expand this selection in the coming years, so that eventually biographical information on all Dutch mathematicians (some hundreds) will be readily available. The Biographical Dictionary of Dutch Mathematicians will provide a broad overview of Dutch scientists since 1500. Many aspects of this work are disputable: How do you define ‘Dutch’, or a ‘mathematician’? The editors have chosen to interpret these terms in a broad sense. For example, Johann Bernoulli was Swiss but worked for many years in Groningen and had an important influence on mathematics in the Netherlands. On this basis he has been included in the Biographical Dictionary of Dutch Mathematicians. Edsger Dijkstra was an information scientist, however, he laid the mathematical foundations of information science and thus cannot be excluded from the Biographical Dictionary of Dutch Mathematicians. Wim Klein was a numerical genius, but no mathematician; however, he did serve the needs of science: theMathematisch Centrum (the modern CWI) used his talents in the time before computers were able to carry out large calculations. So Wim Klein is also included in the Biographical Dictionary of Dutch Mathematicians. An entry in the Biographical Dictionary of Dutch Mathematicians is made up of a short description of the person’s life (300 to 400 words), with a portrait and an overview of publications, literature and relevant links. The publications and literature cited are meant to provide a selective overview and are thus in no way comprehensive. The dictionary should be viewed as a starting point for readers who require more information about the mathematicians described in it.