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Hans Lewy

Hans Lewy

German born American mathematician (1904–1988)
The basics
Occupations Mathematician University teacher
Countries Germany United States of America
A.K.A. Леви Ганс, Леви, Ганс
Gender male
Birth October 20, 1904 (Wrocław)
Death August 23, 1988 (Berkeley)
Education University of Göttingen
Authority ISNI id Library of congress id VIAF id
The details

Hans Lewy (20 October 1904 – 23 August 1988) was a Jewish German born American mathematician, known for his work on partial differential equations and on the theory of functions of several complex variables.


Lewy was born n Breslau, Germany (now Wrocław, Poland), on October 20, 1904. He began his studies at the University of Göttingen in 1922, after being advised to avoid the more local University of Breslau because it was too old-fashioned, supporting himself during the Weimar hyperinflation by a side job doing railroad track maintenance. At Göttingen, he studied both mathematics and physics; his teachers there included Max Born, Richard Courant, James Franck, David Hilbert, Edmund Landau, Emmy Noether, and Alexander Ostrowski. He earned his doctorate in 1926, at which time he and his friend Kurt Otto Friedrichs both became assistants to Courant and privatdozents at Göttingen.

At the recommendation of Courant, Lewy was granted a Rockefeller Fellowship, which he used in 1929 to travel to Rome and study algebraic geometry with Tullio Levi-Civita and Federigo Enriques, and then in 1930 to travel to Paris, where he attended the seminar of Jacques Hadamard. After Hitler's election as chancellor in 1933, Lewy was advised by Herbert Busemann to leave Germany again. He was offered a position in Madrid, but declined it, fearing for the future there under Francisco Franco. He revisited Italy and France, but then at the invitation of the Emergency Committee in Aid of Displaced Foreign Scholars and with the assistance of Hadamard found a two-year position in America at Brown University. At the end of that term, in 1935, he moved to the University of California, Berkeley.

During World War II, Lewy obtained a pilot's license, but then worked at the Aberdeen Proving Ground. He married Helen Crosby in 1947.

In 1950, Lewy was fired from Berkeley for refusing to sign a loyalty oath. He taught at Harvard University and Stanford University in 1952 and 1953 before being reinstated by the California Supreme Court case Tolman v. Underhill.

He retired from Berkeley in 1972, and in 1973 became one of two Ordway Professors of Mathematics at the University of Minnesota. He died on August 23, 1988, in Berkeley.

Awards and honors

Lewy was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1964, and was also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He became a foreign member of the Accademia dei Lincei in 1972.

He was awarded a Leroy P. Steele Prize in 1979, and a Wolf Prize in Mathematics in 1986 for his work on partial differential equations. In 1986, the University of Bonn gave him an honorary doctorate.


  • Lewy, Hans (1935). "A priori limitations for Monge-Ampère equations". Trans. Amer. Math. Soc. 37: 417–434. doi:10.1090/s0002-9947-1935-1501794-9. MR 1501794.
  • —— (1936). "On the non-vanishing of the Jacobian in certain one-to-one mappings". Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 42: 689–692. doi:10.1090/s0002-9904-1936-06397-4. MR 1563404.
  • —— (1936). "Generalized integrals and differential equations". Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 22 (6): 377–381. doi:10.1073/pnas.22.6.377. PMC 1076784. PMID 16588088.
  • —— (1937). "A priori limitations for Monge-Ampère equations. II". Trans. Amer. Math. Soc. 41: 365–374. doi:10.1090/s0002-9947-1937-1501906-9. MR 1501906.
  • —— (1938). "On the existence of a closed convex surface realizing a given Riemannian metric". Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 24 (2): 104–106. doi:10.1073/pnas.24.2.104. PMC 1077039. PMID 16588189.
  • —— (1938). "Generalized integrals and differential equations". Trans. Amer. Math. Soc. 43: 437–464. doi:10.1090/s0002-9947-1938-1501953-8. MR 1501953. PMC 1076784.
  • —— (1938). "On differential geometry in the large. I. Minkowski's problem". Trans. Amer. Math. Soc. 43: 258–270. doi:10.1090/s0002-9947-1938-1501942-3. MR 1501942.
  • Lewy, Hans; Green, John Willie (1939). Aspects of the Calculus of Variations. Berkeley: U. of California Press; notes by J. W. Green from lectures by Hans Lewy, vi+96 pp.
  • Lewy, Hans (1946). "Water waves on sloping beaches". Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 52: 737–775. doi:10.1090/s0002-9904-1946-08643-7. MR 0022134.
  • —— (1951). "On the boundary behavior of minimal surfaces". Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 37 (2): 103–110. doi:10.1073/pnas.37.2.103. PMC 1063312. PMID 16578356.
  • —— (1952). "A note on harmonic functions and a hydrodynamical application". Proc. Amer. Math. Soc. 3: 111–113. doi:10.1090/s0002-9939-1952-0049399-9. MR 0049399.
  • —— (1959). "On the reflection laws of second order differential equations in two independent variables". Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 65: 37–58. doi:10.1090/s0002-9904-1959-10270-6. MR 0104048.

A selection of his work, edited by David Kinderlehrer and including his most important works, was published as the two volume work (Kinderlehrer 2002a) and (Kinderlehrer 2002b)

The following works are included in his "Selecta" in their original language or translated form.

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