George Yuri Rainich

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George Yuri Rainich (March 25, 1886 in Odessa – October 10, 1968) was a leading mathematical physicist in the early twentieth century.


Rainich studied mathematics in Odessa and Munich, eventually obtaining his doctorate in 1913 from the University of Kazan. In 1922, he emigrated to the United States, and after three years at Johns Hopkins University, joined the faculty of the University of Michigan, where he remained until his retirement in 1956.

Rainich's research centered on general relativity and early work toward a unified field theory. In 1924, Rainich found a set of equivalent conditions for a Lorentzian manifold to admit an interpretation as an exact non-null electrovacuum solution in general relativity; these are now known as the Rainich conditions.

According to some sources, Peter Gabriel Bergmann brought Rainich's suggestion that algebraic topology (and knot theory in particular) should play a role in physics to the attention of John Archibald Wheeler, which shortly led to the Ph.D. thesis of Charles W. Misner. Another version of this tale replaces Bergmann with Hugh Everett, who was a fellow student of Misner at the time.

Mrs. Rainich (bottom row, left) accompanied George Yuri Rainich (not on the photo) at the ICM 1932.

According to the Editor of The American Mathematical Monthly,[1][2] Rainich is the inventor of the Rabinowitsch trick, a clever argument to deduce the Hilbert Nullstellensatz from an easier special case. It is later explained[3] that Rainich was born Rabinowitsch, hence the Pseudonym.

Rainich's private papers are held at the University of Texas.


Several of Rainich's Ph.D. students became famous:

  • Ruel Vance Churchill (12 December 1899 - 31 October 1987) is well known to several generations of mathematics students as a coauthor of a standard textbook known as "Churchill & Brown."
  • Marjorie Lee Browne (9 September 1914 – 19 October 1979) was one of the first African-American woman to receive a doctoral degree in mathematics in the U.S.



  1. ^ Palka, Bruce P. (May 2004). "Editor's Endnotes". The American Mathematical Monthly. 111 (5): 456–460. JSTOR 4145290. 
  2. ^ Elencwajg, Georges. "MathOverflow answer - Pseudonyms of famous mathematicians". 
  3. ^ Palka, Bruce P. (December 2004). "Editor's Endnotes". The American Mathematical Monthly. 111 (10): 927–929. JSTOR 4145123.