Emil Julius Gumbel

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Emil Julius Gumbel (18 July 1891, Munich – 10 September 1966, New York City) was a German mathematician and political writer.

Born to a prominent Jewish family in Württemberg, he graduated from the University of Munich shortly before the outbreak of the First World War.[1] He was Professor of Mathematical Statistics at the University of Heidelberg.

Following the murder of a friend, he attended the trial where he saw that the judge completely ignored evidence against the Nazi Brownshirts. Horrified, he ardently investigated many similar political murders that had occurred and published his findings in Four Years of Political Murder in 1922. In 1928, he published Causes of Political Murder and also tried to create a political group to counter Nazism. Gumbel was also one of the 33 signers of the 1932 Dringender Appell.

Among the Nazis' most-hated public intellectuals, he was forced out of his position in Heidelberg in 1932. Gumbel then moved to France, where he taught in Paris and Lyon, and then to the United States in 1940. He taught at the École Libre Des Hautes Études in Paris and at the New School for Social Research and Columbia University in New York City until his death in 1966.[2]

As a mathematician, Gumbel was instrumental in the development of extreme value theory, along with Leonard Tippett and Ronald Fisher. In 1958, Gumbel published a key book on the topic of statistics of extremes.[3] He derived and analyzed the probability distribution that is now known as the Gumbel distribution in his honor.

When he died, Gumbel's papers were made a part of The Emil J. Gumbel Collection, Political Papers of an Anti-Nazi Scholar in Weimar and Exile. These papers include reels of microfilm that document his activities against the Nazis.[4]


  1. ^ Brenner, Arthur, ed. (1990). A Guide to the Microfilm Edition of the Emil J. Gumbel Collection: Political Papers of an Anti-Nazi Scholar in Weimar and Exile, 1914–1966 (PDF). New York: Leo Back Institute. p. xi. ISBN 978-1-55655-212-0.
  2. ^ Much of this discussion is drawn from an account in The Lady Tasting Tea, a book about the history of Statistics and biographies of Statisticians.
  3. ^ Gumbel, E. J. (1958). Statistics of Extremes. Columbia University Press, New York.
  4. ^ More biographical details of Gumbel's opposition to Nazism can be found in The Emil J. Gumbel Collection, Political Papers of an Anti-Nazi Scholar in Weimar and Exile

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