Curtze, E. L. W. Maximilian

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Curtze, E. L. W. Maximilian

(b. Ballenstedt, Harz, Germany, 4 August 1837; d. Thorn, Germany [now Torn, Poland], 3 January 1903)


Curtze was the son of Eduard Curtze, a physician, and of Johanna Nicolai-Curtze. He attended the Gymnasium in Bernburg and from 1857 to 1860 studied in Greifswald, primarily under Johann August Grunert. After he passed the teaching examination in 1861, he taught at the Gymnasium in Thorn, where one of his colleagues was the Copernicus scholar Leopold Prove.

Curtze had an excellent knowledge of the current mathematical literature and an unusual talent for languages; he translated many valuable mathematical works from Italian into German, an outstanding example being Schiaparelli’s Precursori di Copernico nell’antichita (1876). He did not publish a comprehensive work on his main field—the editing of medieval manuscripts, especially those in the rich collection of the library of Thorn—but he did publish valuable reports on the treasures of this library (1871; 1873–1878). He was also responsible for editions of Oresme’s Algorismus proportionum (1868) and of his mathematical writings (1870), the Liber trium fratrum de geometria (1885), Peter of Dacia’s commentary on Sacrobosco’s Algorisms (1897), and Anaritius’ commentaries on Euclid’s Elements (1899). Other publications are the collection Urkunden zur Geschichte der Mathematik im Mittelalter and der Renaissance (1902) and a carefully researched biography of Copernicus (1899).

Curtze contributed many essays to mathematical journals and journals of the history of science. His work was greatly aided by his skill in deciphering hard-to-read handwriting and by visits to libraries in Uppsala and Stockholm (1873) and central Germany (1896). He began corresponding with Moritz Cantor in 1865 but did not meet him until 1896.

In his time Curtze was the outstanding expert on medieval mathematical texts. Through his careful editions he pointed out new paths in a field that was then little investigated.


I Original Works. Curtze’s writings include Die Gymnasialbibliothek zu Thorn (Thorn, 1871); Die Handschriften and seltenen Drucke der Gymnasialbibliothek zu Thorn, 2 vols. (I, Thorn, 1873; II, Leipzig, 1878); a biography of Copernicus (Leipzig, 1899); and Urkunden zur Geschichte der Mathematik im Mittelalter and der Renaissance (Leipzig, 1902). Among his translations is that of G. V. Schiaparelli’s Precursori di Copernico nell’ antichità (Leipzig, 1876). Curtze was responsible for editions of Nicole Oresme’s Algorismus proportionum (Berlin, 1868) and of his mathematical writings (Berlin, 1870); of the Liber trium fratrum de geometria (Halle, 1885); of Peter of Dacia’s In algorismum Johannis de Sacro Bosco commentarius (Copenhagen, 1897); and of Anaritius’ In decem libroselementorum Euclidis commentarii (Leipzi, 1899).

II. Secondary Literature Obituary notices are Moritz Cantor, “Maximilian Curtze,” in Jahresbericht der Deutschen Mathematiker-Vereiningung, 12 (1903), 357–368, with portrait, and Biographisches Jahrbuch and deutscher Nekrolog für das Jahr 1903, (1904), 90–94; and S. Günther, “Maximilian Curtze,” in Bibliotheca mathematica, 3rd ser., 4 (1903), 65–81, with portrait and bibliography.

J. E. Hofmann