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The list of mathematicians who worked at the ETH Zurich (formerly Federal Polytechnical School) reveals a remarkable number of significant names, for example: Richard Dedekind, Georg Ferdinand Frobenius, Adolf Hurwitz, Hermann Minkowski, Hermann Weyl, George Polya, Heinz Hopf, Beno Eckmann, Jürgen Moser and Armand Borel.

Thanks to these illustrious names, mathematics at the ETH has been prominently and internationally visible from the outset. There is no doubt that the ETH Zurich's remarkable reputation is also due to the merits it earned in mathematics. The international standing of mathematics in Zurich is illustrated by the fact that the International Congress of Mathematicians has already taken place here on three occasions: in 1897, 1932 and 1994.

Focus here is on the early history of mathematics at the ETH Zurich. Recent developments will only be mentioned marginally.

Epochs in the history of mathematics at ETH

Epoch Historical events

First decades

Rise from an auxiliary science to an independent scientific field

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Early 20th century

International Congress of Mathematicians twice in Zurich. Symbiosis of mathematics and physics at ETH and new career opportunities

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After the wars

Foundation of the Research Institute for Mathematics and expansion of applied mathematics

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Since 1970s

Modern times

Foundation of the Department of Mathematics, establishment of the ETH Institute for Theoretical Studies

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Günther Frei, Urs Stammbach: Mathematicians and Mathematics in Zurich, at the University and the ETH. Schriftenreihe A der ETH Bibliothek, 2007.

Günther Frei, Urs Stammbach: Die Mathematiker an den Zürcher Hochschulen. Birkhäuser-Verlag, 1994.

Günther Frei, Urs Stammbach: Hermann Weyl und die Mathematik an der ETH Zürich, 1913-1930. Birkhäuser-Verlag, 1992.

Günther Frei, Urs Stammbach: Heinz Hopf. In: Ioan Mackenzie James (ed.): History of Topology. Elsevier, 1999. 991-1008. (online, restricted)

Max-Albert Knus, Guido Mislin, Urs Stammbach: Beno Eckmann 1917-2008. In: Jahresbericht der Deutsche Mathematiker-Vereinigung 112, 2010, 25-50. (full text, restricted)

Max-Albert Knus: Dedekind und das Polytechnikum in Zürich. In: Abhandlungen der Braunschweigischen Wissenschaftlichen Gesellschaft 33, 1982, 43-60.

Max-Albert Knus: Christoffel und die Mathematik an der polytechnischen Schule Zürich. In: Heimatblätter des Kreises Aachen 34/35, 1979, 45-55.

Urs Stammbach: Ein Zwischenfall, dem Heinz Hopf 1939 in Karlsruhe ausgesetzt war. In: Mathematische Semesterberichte 56, 2009, 233-250. (full text, restricted)

Urs Stammbach: Hermann Weyl, Heinz Hopf und das Jahr 1930 an der ETH. In: Bruno Colbois, Christine Riedtmann, Viktor Schroeder (eds.) Schweizerische Mathematische Gesellschaft 1910-2010. EMS, 2010, 441-469. (online, restricted)

Urs Stammbach: Die Berufung von Hermann Minkowski an das Eidgenössische Polytechnikum in Zürich. Unpublished, 18 pages.

A special thank you goes to Prof. em. Urs Stammbach for his support in compiling the history of the Department.

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