Max August Zorn

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Not to be confused with Max Zorn (artist).
Max August Zorn, Jena, 1930

Max August Zorn (German: [tsɔʁn]; June 6, 1906 – March 9, 1993) was a German mathematician. He was an algebraist, group theorist, and numerical analyst. He is best known for Zorn's lemma, a powerful tool in set theory that is applicable to a wide range of mathematical constructs such as vector spaces, ordered sets, etc. Zorn's lemma was first postulated by Kazimierz Kuratowski in 1922, and then independently by Zorn in 1935.

Life and career[edit]

Zorn was born in Krefeld, Germany. He attended the University of Hamburg. He received his Ph.D. in April 1930 for a thesis on alternative algebras. He married Alice Schlottau and they had one son, Jens, and one daughter, Liz. Jens (born June 19, 1931) is an emeritus professor of physics at the University of Michigan and an accomplished sculptor. Max Zorn's grandson Eric Zorn is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune.

Max Zorn was appointed as an assistant at the University of Halle. However, he did not have the opportunity to work there for long since he was forced to leave Germany in 1933 because of the Nazi policies. He emigrated to the U.S. and was appointed a Sterling Fellow at Yale University. After that, he moved to UCLA and remained until 1946. He left UCLA to become a professor at Indiana University. He held this position from 1946 until he retired in 1971. He was thesis advisor for Israel Nathan Herstein.

Zorn died in Bloomington, Indiana, United States, in March 1993, of congestive heart failure, according to his obituary in The New York Times.[1]


  1. ^ Saxon, Wolfgang (11 March 1993). "Max A. Zorn, 86; Developed a Theory That Changed Math". NY Times. 

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