Menahem Max Schiffer

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Menahem Max Schiffer (24 September 1911, Berlin – 8 November 1997[1]) was a German-born American mathematician who worked in complex analysis, partial differential equations, and mathematical physics.[2]


Schiffer studied physics from 1930 at the University of Bonn and then at the Humboldt University of Berlin with a number of famous physicists and mathematicians including Max von Laue, Erwin Schrödinger, Walter Nernst, Erhard Schmidt, Issai Schur and Ludwig Bieberbach. In Berlin he worked closely with Issai Schur. In 1934 Schiffer had his first mathematical publication. After the National Socialist regime removed Schur and many others from their academic posts, Schiffer, as a Jew, immigrated to British-controlled Palestine. On the basis of his 1934 mathematical publication, Schiffer received from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem his master's degree in 1934. He received there his doctorate in 1938 under Michael Fekete with thesis Conformal representation and univalent functions.[3][4] In his dissertation he introduced the "Schiffer variation", a variational method for handling geometric problems in complex analysis. (He also introduced another important variational method.) In September 1952, he became a professor at Stanford University,[5] as part of a Jewish refugee group of outstanding mathematical analysts, including George Pólya, Charles Loewner, Stefan Bergman, and Gábor Szegő.

With Paul Garabedian, Schiffer worked on the Bieberbach conjecture with a proof in 1955 of the special case n=4. He was a speaker (but not in the category of an Invited Speaker) at the International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM) in 1950 at Cambridge, Massachusetts,[6][7] and was a plenary speaker at the ICM in 1958 at Edinburgh with plenary address Extremum Problems and Variational Methods in Conformal Mapping.[8] In 1970 he was elected to the United States National Academy of Sciences. He retired from Stanford University as professor emeritus in 1977.

In 1981, Schiffer became a founding member of the World Cultural Council.[9]

Never losing his interest in mathematical physics, Schiffer also made important contributions to eigenvalue problems, to partial differential equations, and to the variational theory of “domain functionals” that arise in many classical boundary value problems. And he coauthored a book on general relativity. Schiffer was a prolific author over his entire career, with 135 publications from the 1930s to the 1990s, including four books and around forty different coauthors. He was also an outstanding mathematical stylist, always writing, by his own testimony, with the reader in mind. ... His lectures at Stanford and around the world ranged greatly in subject matter and were widely appreciated. ... At Stanford he often taught graduate courses in applied mathematics and mathematical physics. Students from all departments flocked to them, as did many faculty. Each lecture was a perfect set piece—no pauses, no slips, and no notes. In 1976 he was chosen as one of the first recipients of the Dean's Award for Teaching in the School of Humanities and Sciences.[3]

Upon his death he was survived by his wife Fanya Rabinivics Schiffer, whom he married in 1937,[2] and their daughter Dinah S. Singer, an experimental immunologist.[10]

Selected publications[edit]

  • with Leon Bowden: The role of mathematics in science, Mathematical Association of America 1984
  • with Stefan Bergman: Kernel functions and elliptic differential equations in mathematical physics, Academic Press 1953[11]
  • with Donald Spencer: Functionals of finite Riemann Surfaces, Princeton 1954[12]
  • with Ronald Adler, Maurice Bazin: Introduction to General Relativity, McGraw Hill 1965 xvi+ 451 pp. Illus.[13] 2nd edition. 1975; xiv+ 549 pp. 


  1. ^ Person Details for Alpern in entry for Menahem M Schiffer, "California Death Index, 1940–1997 —
  2. ^ a b O'Connor, John J.; Robertson, Edmund F., "Menahem Max Schiffer", MacTutor History of Mathematics archive, University of St Andrews .
  3. ^ a b "Menahem Max Schiffer" (PDF). Notices of the AMS. 49 (8): 886. September 2002. 
  4. ^ Menahem Max Schiffer at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  5. ^ Memorial Resolution, Menahem Max Schiffer (1911–1997), Stanford University Archived 2006-09-16 at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ Kline, J. R. (1951). "The International Congress of Mathematicians". Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 57: 1–10. doi:10.1090/S0002-9904-1951-09429-X. 
  7. ^ Schiffer, Menahem (1950). "Variational methods in the theory of conformal mapping" (PDF). In: Proceedings of the International Congress of Mathematicians, Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.A., August 30–September 6, 1950. vol. 2. pp. 233–240. 
  8. ^ Proceedings of the International Congress of Mathematicians: 14–21 August 1958. 
  9. ^ "About Us". World Cultural Council. Retrieved November 8, 2016. 
  10. ^ Dinah S. Singer, Ph.D. | Center for Cancer Research
  11. ^ Henrici, Peter (1955). "Review: Kernel functions and elliptic differential equations in mathematical physics by S. Bergman and M. Schiffer" (PDF). Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 61 (6): 596–600. doi:10.1090/s0002-9904-1955-10005-5. 
  12. ^ Ahlfors, Lars V. (1955). "Review: Functionals of finite Riemann surfaces by M. M. Schiffer and D. C. Spencer". Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 61 (6): 581–584. doi:10.1090/s0002-9904-1955-09998-1. 
  13. ^ Boyer, R. H. (7 May 1965). "Review: Introduction to General Relativity by Ronald Adler, Maurice Bazin, and Menahem Schiffer". Science. 148 (3671): 808–809. doi:10.1126/science.148.3671.808. 

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