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Marcel Grossmann

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Marcel Grossmann
Born(1878-04-09)April 9, 1878
DiedSeptember 7, 1936(1936-09-07) (aged 58)
Zürich, Switzerland
Alma materFederal Polytechnic School
AwardsHonorary member (1935) of the Swiss Mathematical Society[1]
Scientific career
Doctoral advisorWilhelm Fiedler

Marcel Grossmann (April 9, 1878 – September 7, 1936)[2] was a Swiss mathematician and a friend and classmate of Albert Einstein. Grossmann was a member of an old Swiss family from Zürich. His father managed a textile factory. He became a Professor of Mathematics at the Federal Polytechnic School in Zürich, today the ETH Zurich, specializing in descriptive geometry.


In 1900 Grossmann graduated from the Federal Polytechnic School (ETH) and became an assistant to the geometer Wilhelm Fiedler.[3] He continued to do research on non-Euclidean geometry and taught in high schools for the next seven years. In 1902, he earned his doctorate from the University of Zurich with the thesis Ueber die metrischen Eigenschaften kollinearer Gebilde (translated On the Metrical Properties of Collinear Structures) with Fiedler as advisor. In 1907, he was appointed full professor of descriptive geometry at the Federal Polytechnic School.[4]

As a professor of geometry, Grossmann organized summer courses for high school teachers. In 1910, he became one of the founders of the Swiss Mathematical Society. He was an Invited Speaker of the ICM in 1912 at Cambridge[5] and in 1920 at Strasbourg.

Collaborations with Albert Einstein[edit]

Albert Einstein's friendship with Grossmann began with their school days in Zürich. Grossmann's careful and complete lecture notes at the Federal Polytechnic School proved to be a salvation for Einstein, who missed many lectures.[6] Grossmann's father helped Einstein get his job at the Swiss Patent Office in Bern,[7] and it was Grossmann who helped to conduct the negotiations to bring Einstein back from Prague as a professor of physics at the Zurich Polytechnic. Grossmann was an expert in differential geometry and tensor calculus; just the mathematical tools providing a proper mathematical framework for Einstein's work on gravity. Thus, it was natural that Einstein would enter into a scientific collaboration with Grossmann.[8]

It was Grossmann who emphasized the importance of a non-Euclidean geometry called Riemannian geometry (also elliptic geometry) to Einstein, which was a necessary step in the development of Einstein's general theory of relativity. Abraham Pais's book[9] on Einstein suggests that Grossmann mentored Einstein in tensor theory as well. Grossmann introduced Einstein to the absolute differential calculus, started by Elwin Bruno Christoffel[10] and fully developed by Gregorio Ricci-Curbastro and Tullio Levi-Civita.[11] Grossmann facilitated Einstein's unique synthesis of mathematical and theoretical physics in what is still today considered the most elegant and powerful theory of gravity: the general theory of relativity. The collaboration of Einstein and Grossmann led to a ground-breaking paper: "Outline of a Generalized Theory of Relativity and of a Theory of Gravitation", which was published in 1913 and was one of the two fundamental papers which established Einstein's theory of gravity.[12]


Grossmann died of multiple sclerosis in 1936.[13] The community of relativists celebrates Grossmann's contributions to physics by organizing Marcel Grossmann meetings every three years.


The International Center for Relativistic Astrophysics presents the Marcel Grossmann Awards. Each recipient receives a silver casting of the T. E. S. T. sculpture [14] by the artist A. Pierelli. Each year, an institution is selected and between two and six individual scientists are selected. Past institutional winners include the Planck Scientific Collaboration (ESA), AlbaNova University Center, Institut des Hautes Etudes Scientifique (IHES) and others. Past individual winners include Shing-Tung Yau, Tsung-Dao Lee, Christine Jones Forman and Stephen Hawking.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Honorary Members of the SMS".
  2. ^ Kollros, Louis (1937), "Prof. Dr. Marcel Grossmann 1878–1936", SchweizerischeNaturforschende Gesellschaft. Verhandlungen, 118: 325–329
  3. ^ Cowen, Ron (2019-05-06). Gravity's Century: From Einstein's Eclipse to Images of Black Holes. Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-23928-9.
  4. ^ Graf-Grossmann, Claudia (2018-06-08). Marcel Grossmann: For the Love of Mathematics. Springer. p. 96. ISBN 978-3-319-90077-3.
  5. ^ Grossmann, Marcel. "Die Zentralprojektion in der absoluten Geometrie" (PDF). In: Proceedings of the Fifth International Congress of Mathematicians (Cambridge, 22–28 August 1912). Vol. 2. pp. 66–69. Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 December 2017.
  6. ^ Alice Calaprice, Daniel Kennefick, Robert Schulmann, An Einstein Encyclopedia, Princeton University Press, 2015, p. 70.
  7. ^ Janssen, Michel; Renn, Jürgen (2015-11-19). "History: Einstein was no lone genius". Nature. 527 (7578): 298–300. Bibcode:2015Natur.527..298J. doi:10.1038/527298a. PMID 26581276.
  8. ^ J. Earman and C. Glymour, Lost in the Tensors: Einstein's Struggles with Covariance Principles, 1912-1916, footnote page 255; Carnegie Mellon University Research Showcase (accessed February 12, 2016)
  9. ^ Pais, Abraham (1982). Subtle is the lord: the science and life of Albert Einstein.
  10. ^ Christoffel, E.B. (1869), "Ueber die Transformation der homogenen Differentialausdrücke zweiten Grades", Journal für die reine und angewandte Mathematik, B. 70: 46–70
  11. ^ Ricci, Gregorio; Levi-Civita, Tullio (March 1900), "Méthodes de calcul différentiel absolu et leurs applications", Mathematische Annalen, 54 (1–2), Springer: 125–201, doi:10.1007/BF01454201, S2CID 120009332
  12. ^ Einstein, A.; Grossmann, M. (1913). "Entwurf einer verallgemeinerten Relativitätstheorie und einer Theorie der Gravitation". Monatshefte für Mathematik und Physik: 225–261.
  13. ^ Goldsmith, Donald; Bartusiak, Marcia (August 2008). E = Einstein: His Life, His Thought, and His Influence on Our Culture. Sterling Publishing Company, Inc. p. 34. ISBN 978-1-4027-6319-9.
  14. ^ "I.C.R.A. Network - Marcel Grossmann Awards". www.icranet.org. Retrieved 2020-09-01.


  • Pais, Abraham (1982). Subtle is the Lord: The Science and the Life of Albert Einstein. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-853907-X.
  • Einstein, A.; Grossmann, M. (1913). "Entwurf einer verallgemeinerten Relativitätstheorie und einer Theorie der Gravitation" [Outline of a Generalized Theory of Relativity and of a Theory of Gravitation]. Zeitschrift für Mathematik und Physik. 62: 225–261. English translate
  • Einstein, A.; Grossmann, M. (1914). "Kovarianzeigenschaften der Feldgleichungen der auf die verallgemeinerte Relativitätstheorie gegründeten Gravitationstheorie" [Covariance Properties of the Field Equations of the Theory of Gravitation Based on the Generalized Theory of Relativity]. Zeitschrift für Mathematik und Physik. 63: 215–225. Bibcode:1914ZMP....63..215E.
  • Graf-Grossmann, Claudia, with T. Sauer, Marcel Grossmann: Aus Liebe zur Mathematik, Römerhof-Verlag, Zürich, 2015, ISBN 978-3-905894-32-5
  • T. Sauer, ''Marcel Grossmann's contribution to the general theory of relativity'', in: ''Proceedings of the 13th Marcel Grossmann meeting on Recent Developments in Theoretical and Experimental General Relativity, Astrophysics and Relativistic Field Theories'', July 2012. Edited by Robert T. Jantzen, Kjell Rosquist, Remo Ruffini. World Scientific, 2015, pp. 456–503.(http://arxiv.org/abs/1312.4068)
  • Graf-Grossmann, Claudia, with T. Sauer, English translation by William D. Brewer, "Marcel Grossmann: For the Love of Mathematics", Springer Biographies, 2018, ISBN 3319900765, ISBN 978-3319900766

External links[edit]