Wieleitner, Heinrich

views updated


(b. Wasserburg am Inn, Germany, 31 October 1874; d. Munich, Germany, 27 December 1931)

mathematics,history of mathematics.

Wieleitner received his higher education at the Catholic seminaries at Scheyern and Freising but subsequently decided to study mathematics (rather than classical languages and theology) at the University of Munich. Since his parents lived in simple circumstances, C. L. F. Lindemann proposed that Wieleitner be allotted the Lamont stipend for Catholic students of mathematics in 1895. This enabled the gifted young man to complete his studies in 1897 with excellent marks. Three years later he obtained the doctorate with a dissertation on third-orders surfaces with oval points, a subject suggested to him by Lindemann.

Meanwhile. Wieleitner had become a high school teacher, his first appointment being at the Gymnasium at Speyer. In 1909 he was made Gymnasialprofessor at Pirmasens: in 1915 he returned to Speyer as headmaster of the Realschule: in 1920 he moved to Augsburg, and in 1926 he was promoted to Oberstudiendirektor at the Neue Realgymnasium in Munich, a post he held until his death. Parallel to his career as an educator, Wieleitner established a reputation as a geometer and –increasingly so–as a historian of mathematics. Probably during the International Congresses of Mathematicians at Heidelberg (1904) and Rome (1908), he met Italian geometers. He translated an article by Gino Loria and, with E. Ciani, contributed to the revised German edition of Pascals Repertorium der höheren Mathematik.1 In 1905 his Theorie der ebenen algebraischen Kurven höherer Ordnung had been published, and in 1908 it was supplemented by Spezielle ebene Kurven. IN 1914 and 1918 the two volumes of Wieleitner’sAlgebraische Kurven followed. Wieleitner’s books were noted for their simple, straightforward presentation and the author’s great didactic skill, which made ample use of geometric intuition and insight.

Although always interested in the history of mathematics, Wieleitner would most probably not have become involved in the field had Anton von Braunmühl had undertaken to write a Geschichte der Mathematik in two vgolumes. Günther’s voulme (antiquity to Descartes)2 appeared in 1908, but his partner left an unfinished manuscript. Wieleitner was persuaded to step in. Thoroughly going through G. Eneström’s many critical remarks about Cantor’s Vorlesungen über Geschichte der Mathematics,3 he revised and completed part 1 of Braumühl’s work (arithmetic, algebra, ananlysis), which was published in 1911: part II (geometry, trigonometry) appeared in 1921. Apart from being based on a detailed study of primary sources, Wieleitner’s presentation always stressed the notion of development and progress of mathematics. Giving only minor attention to individual biographies, the author brought the leading ideas to the fore, and wrote history of mathematical ideas. He followed the same general concept in his Geschichte der Mathematik, published in two small volumes in the Sammlung Göschen in 1922–1923.

Shortly after moving to Munich in 1928, Wieleitner, at Sommerfeld’s suggestion, was made Privatdozent, and in 1930 honorary professor, at the university. Since 1919 he had been corresponding member of the Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina, and in 1929 he was elected member of the Académie Internationale d’Histoire des Sciences.

Wieleitner published about 150 books and articels and more than 2,500 book reviews. Many of his papers and books–in geometry and the history of mathematics–were addressed to teachers and students of mathematics. In inexpensive source booklets he presented carefully chosen excerpts from mathematical classics for classroom use. His work in the history of mathematics was continued in the same spirit and with the same close connection to mathematical education by kurt Vogel and J. E. Hofmann.


1.Pascals Repertorium der höheren Mathematik, 2nd completely rev. German ed., E. Salkowski and H. E. Timerding, eds., II, pt. 1, Grundlagen und Geometrie (Leipzig-Berlin, 1910).

2. Siegmund Günther,Geschichte der Mathenatik 1,Von denältesten Zeiten bis Cartesius (Leipzig, 1908).

3. Moritz Cantor, Vorlesungen über Geschichte der Mahtematik, 4 vols. (1:Leipzig, 1880; 2nd ed., 1894: 3rd ed., 1907; 11: 1892: 2nd ed., 1899–1900: 111: 1898: 2nd ed., 1900–1901: IV: 1908).


I. Original Works. Wieleitner’s most important books are Theorie der algebraischen Kurven höherer Ordnung (Leipzing,1905), Sammlung Schubert no. 43; spezielle ebene Kurven (Leipzing, 1908), Sammlung Schubert no. 56: Geschichte der Mathematik, II, Von Cartesius bis Zur Wende des 18. Jahrhunderts,,2 vols. (Leipzing, 1911–1921), Sammlung Schubert nos. 63, 64; Algebraische kurven, 2 vols. (Berlin-Leipzig, 1914–1918; I: 2nd ed., 1919; 3rd ed., 1930; II: 2nd ed., 1919). Sammlung Göschen nos. 435, 436: Geschichte der Mathermatik, 2 vols. (Berlin-Lipzig, 1922–1923), Sammlung Göschen nos. 226, 875; Die Geburt der mosdernen Mathematik, 2 vols. (karlsruhe, 1924–1925); and Mathematische Quellenbücher, 4 vols. (Berlin, 1927–1929). A combined Russian trans. of the 2 vols. of Geschichte der Mathematik, II (Sammlung Schubert nos. tittle Istoria matematiki to Dekarta do serednü XIX stoletia by A. P. Youschkevitch (Moscow, 1966).

II. Secondary Literature. The most extensive4 obituaries (including bibliographies and a portrait) are J. E. Hofmann, in Jahresbericht der Deutschen Mathe-matiker-vereinigung,42 (1932), 150–233, with portrait; and J.Ruska, in Isis, 18 (1932), 150–165.

Christoph J. Scriba

About this article

Wieleitner, Heinrich

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article