Friedrich Hirzebruch

Friedrich Hirzebruch

Friedrich Hirzebruch in 1980 (picture courtesy MFO)
Born Friedrich Ernst Peter Hirzebruch
(1927-10-17)17 October 1927
Hamm, Province of Westphalia, Weimar Germany
Died 27 May 2012(2012-05-27) (aged 84)
Bonn, Germany
Residence Germany
Nationality German
Fields Mathematics
Alma mater
Doctoral advisor
Doctoral students
Known for
Notable awards

Friedrich Ernst Peter Hirzebruch ForMemRS[2] (17 October 1927 27 May 2012) was a German mathematician, working in the fields of topology, complex manifolds and algebraic geometry, and a leading figure in his generation. He has been described as "the most important mathematician in Germany of the postwar period."[3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11]


Hirzebruch was born in Hamm, Westphalia in 1927.[12] He studied at the University of Münster from 1945–1950, with one year at ETH Zürich.


Hirzebruch then held a position at Erlangen, followed by the years 1952–54 at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. After one year at Princeton University 1955–56, he was made a professor at the University of Bonn, where he remained, becoming director of the Max-Planck-Institut für Mathematik in 1981. More than 300 people gathered in celebration of his 80th birthday in Bonn in 2007.

The Hirzebruch–Riemann–Roch theorem (1954) for complex manifolds was a major advance and quickly became part of the mainstream developments around the classical Riemann–Roch theorem; it was also a precursor of the Atiyah–Singer index theorem. Hirzebruch's book Neue topologische Methoden in der algebraischen Geometrie (1956) was a basic text for the 'new methods' of sheaf theory, in complex algebraic geometry. He went on to write the foundational papers on topological K-theory with Michael Atiyah, and collaborate with Armand Borel on the theory of characteristic classes. In his later work he provided a detailed theory of Hilbert modular surfaces, working with Don Zagier.

In March 1945, Hirzebruch became a soldier, and in April, in the last weeks of Hitler's rule, he was taken prisoner by the British forces then invading Germany from the west. When a British soldier found that he was studying mathematics, he drove him home and released him, and told him to continue studying.

Hirzebruch died at the age of 84 on 27 May 2012.[13][14][15]

Honours and awards

Amongst many other honours, Hirzebruch was awarded a Wolf Prize in Mathematics in 1988 and a Lobachevsky Medal in 1989.[16]

The government of Japan awarded him the Order of the Sacred Treasure in 1996.[17]

Hirzebruch won an Einstein Medal in 1999, and received the Cantor medal in 2004.

Hirzebruch was a foreign member of numerous academies and societies, including the United States National Academy of Sciences, the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Royal Society[2] and the French Academy of Sciences. In 1980–81 he delivered the first Sackler Distinguished Lecture in Israel.


  1. Friedrich Hirzebruch at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  2. 1 2 3 Atiyah, Michael (2014). "Friedrich Ernst Peter Hirzebruch 17 October 1927 — 27 May 2012". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. Royal Society. doi:10.1098/rsbm.2014.0010.
  3. "Friedrich Hirzebruch 1927-2012". 29 May 2012. Retrieved 29 May 2012.
  4. Europa Publications (2003). The International Who's Who 2004. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-85743-217-6. Retrieved 24 April 2010.
  5. Hirzebruch, Friedrich; Mayer, Karl Heinz (1968), O(n)-Mannigfaltigkeiten, Exotische Sphären und Singularitäten, Lecture Notes in Mathematics, 57, Berlin, New York: Springer-Verlag, doi:10.1007/BFb0074355, MR 0229251
  6. Hirzebruch, Friedrich; Zagier, Don (1974), The Atiyah-Singer theorem and elementary number theory, Houston, TX: Publish or Perish, MR 0650832
  7. Hirzebruch, Friedrich (1987), Gesammelte Abhandlungen. Band I, II, Berlin, New York: Springer-Verlag, ISBN 978-3-540-18087-6, MR 931775
  8. Hirzebruch, Friedrich; Jung, Rainer; Berger, Thomas (1992), Manifolds and modular forms, Aspects of Mathematics, E20, Braunschweig: Friedr. Vieweg & Sohn, ISBN 978-3-528-06414-3, MR 1189136
  9. Hirzebruch, Friedrich (1995) [1956], Topological methods in algebraic geometry, Classics in Mathematics, Berlin, New York: Springer-Verlag, ISBN 978-3-540-58663-0, MR 1335917
  10. Segel, Joel (2011-12-01). "Friedrich Hirzebruch: Giant of German Mathematics". Simons Foundation.
  11. Atiyah, Michael; Zagier, Don (2014), "Friedrich Hirzebruch (1927–2012)" (PDF), Notices of the American Mathematical Society, 61 (7): 706–727, doi:10.1090/noti1145
  12. O'Connor, John J.; Robertson, Edmund F., "Friedrich Hirzebruch", MacTutor History of Mathematics archive, University of St Andrews.
  13. "With great sadness we mourn the death of our founder, Friedrich Hirzebruch, who passed away on Sunday, May 27". Max Planck Institute for Mathematics.
  14. Max Planck Institute Announcement, Max Planck Institute for Mathematics. Retrieved on 29 May 2012.
  15. "Friedrich Hirzebruch, Mathematician, Is Dead at 84"
  16. Schecter, Bruce (June 10, 2012), "Friedrich Hirzebruch, Mathematician, Is Dead at 84", The New York Times
  17. L'Harmattan web site (in French), Order with gold and silver rays
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