Birkhoff, George David

Birkhoff, George David,

1884–1944, American mathematician, b. Overisel, Mich.; father of Garrett BirkhoffBirkhoff, Garrett
, 1911–96, American mathematician, b. Princeton, N.J.; son of George David Birkhoff. He was educated at Harvard (B.A., 1932) where he was elected a fellow in 1933 and taught until his retirement in 1981.
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. The son of a physician, he was educated at Harvard (B.A., 1905) and the Univ. of Chicago (Ph.D., 1907) After teaching shortly at Chicago and Princeton, he joined the faculty at Harvard (1912) where he taught until his death. Birkhoff, perhaps the first American mathematician of international repute, is known for his work on linear differential equations and difference equations. He was also deeply interested in and made contributions to the analysis of dynamical systems, celestial mechanics, the four-color map problem, and function spaces. In addition he wrote on the foundations of relativity and quantum mechanics and on art and music, e.g., Aesthetic Measure (1933).


See his Collected Mathematical Papers (3 vol., 1950).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Birkhoff, George David


Born Mar. 21, 1884, in Overisel, Michigan; died Nov. 12,1944, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. American mathematician. Member of the National Academy of Sciences in Washington.

Birkhoff was an assistant, then a professor at Harvard University (from 1912). He contributed works in statistical mechanics (ergodic theorems), theoretical mechanics (he established stability criteria of motion and the existence of periodic motion), and also a general theory of differential and difference equations, and a theory of dynamic systems. In his studies in mechanics he applied extensively the methods of topology and set theory.


Collected Mathematical Papers, vols. 1–3. New York, 1950. (The third volume contains a bibliography of Birkhoff s works.)
In Russian translation:
Dinamicheskie sistemy. Moscow-Leningrad, 1941.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Birkhoff, George David

(1884–1944) mathematician; born in Oversiel, Mich. A noted Harvard teacher (1912–39) and president of the American Mathematical Society (1925), he focused on differential equations and celestial mechanics, proving Poincare's "last geometric theorem." He also launched a new era in the theory of dynamical systems, stimulating major advances in topology and global analysis. His geometry work remains standard for today's high school students, and a lifelong interest in music and the arts culminated in his book Aesthetic Measure (1933).
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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