Intellectuals & Academics » Philosophers » KURT GÖDEL
|Full name||: Kurt Gödel|
|Alias||: Kurt Gödel|
|Animals||: The Horse|
|Father||: Rudolf Gödel|
|Mother||: Marianne Gödel|
|Wife||: Adele Nimbursky|
|Education||: University of Vienna|
|Activists||: Philosophers , Mathematicians|
Kurt Friedrich Gödel was known for his mathematical work in the 20th century, which was the time when most mathematicians were concentrating on the logic and set theory concepts in mathematics. He is also said to have influenced his contemporaries with his scientific and philosophical thinking, which is why he is also considered as a philosopher. His work in modern mathematics left a huge impact on mathematicians even to this day. He dedicated his life to theoretical work in mathematics until 1942, when he got greatly influenced by philosophy. His commitment towards his work was so high that, he detached himself from the world around and hardly took part in any of the social activities. He preferred secluded life and kept in touch only with very few people. He never got into arguments with anyone, and appeared to be highly sensitive when it came to accepting criticism. His extraordinary and brilliant work in mathematics was the result of his dedication and hard work. Read on and learn more about this genius.
By 1923, at the age of 18, Gödel gained entry into the University of Vienna, where he chose to study theoretical Physics. Besides studying just physics, Gödel also showed interest in mathematics and philosophy. He attended lectures on number theory by Prof. Phillip Furtwangler, which made him take up mathematics as a career. As a teenager, Gödel had also studied Gabelsberger shorthand, Goethe’s Theory of Colors and the writings of Immanuel Kant.
Gödel actively took part in the Vienna Circle, an association of Philosophers, headed by Moritz Schlick. Later, when Gödel gained interested in mathematical logic, he studied “Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy” by Bertrand Russell.
Gödel went on to pursue mathematics and logic with Hans Hahn and Karl Menger and completed his doctoral thesis in 1929 under Hans Hahn. After he was awarded doctorate in 1930, he became an unpaid lecturer (Privatdozent) at the University of Vienna. The Vienna Academy of Science published his thesis and some of his other work. Later, Gödel gained entry into the Institute of Advanced Study.
The Kurt Gödel Society was founded in 1987, which is an international organization for the promotion of research in areas like philosophy, mathematics and logic. John Dawson Jr. was so moved by Gödel’s work that he published a biography on Gödel and called it “Logical Dilemmas: Life and Work of Kurt Gödel”, in the year 1997. Also, Douglas Hofstadter came up with a book titled “Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid” in the year 1979.
Apart from this, the University of Vienna hosts a ‘Kurt Gödel Research Centre’ for Mathematical Logic where students, today concentrate on set theory, cardinal axioms etc. Even after years of Kurt Gödel passed away, his work in mathematics has laid such a huge impact on the mathematicians today that his legacy continues to live among us.
Kurt Gödel was born on April 28, 1906 in Brno, Austria as second son of Viennese textile business man Rudolf Gödel and German-origin Marianne Handschuh. Kurt Gödel’s brother, Rudolf II Gödel (named after his father) was a famous physician of his times, who helped Kurt during the later stages of his life. Little Kurt was always known as “Mr. Why” during his childhood days, owing to his curious nature. Gödel was sent to Evangelische Volksschule from 1912 to 1916 and later he went on to study in Deutsches Staats Realgymnasium from 1916 to 1924, where he excelled with honors in different languages and mathematics. Gödel’s interests in mathematics increased at the age of 14, when his brother left for Vienna to study Medicine. Gödel suffered from rheumatic fever when he was a child, but it is said that he convinced himself that he suffered from a weak heart, after reading a book on medicine. This clearly indicates that he suffered from paranoia and mental instability since he was a kid.
In 1933, Gödel travelled to USA for a while fearing the increased attacks of the Nazis in Germany. He went into a mental shock especially after his dear friend Moritz Schlick was murdered by a Nazi student.
In USA, Gödel met Albert Einstein and they became very good friends. During his stay at USA, Gödel developed an interest in recursive functions and delivered a speech at the annual meeting of the American Mathematical Society. He also engrossed himself in philosophy and physics by reading the works of Gottfried Leibniz during his stay at IAS. Though Gödel went on to become a permanent member of the IAS in 1946, he was rejected the US citizenship under the judgment of Philip Forman. Later, he became so religious that he circulated his own detailed version of Leibniz’s Anselm of Canterbury’s Ontological Proof of God’s Existence.
Gödel suffered from mental instability as paranoia had set in during the later years of his life. He lived in the fear of being poisoned and ate food that was prepared only by his wife. Later, when Adele was hospitalized, Gödel refused to eat and began to starve. This affected his health which eventually led to his death on January 14th, 1978. It is believed that he weighed only 65 pounds when he died.
Kurt Gödel wrote two papers even before he turned 25 which gained him lot of recognition worldwide, out of which it was the ‘Incompleteness Theorem’ that gained immense popularity. This theorem, which is now popularly known as Gödel’s theorem, states that “given any formal system S capable of expressing arithmetic, if S is consistent then there exists a proposition A of arithmetic which is not formally decidable within S i.e., neither A nor its negotiation is provable in S”. He published his incompleteness theorems in Uber Formal unentscheidbare Satze der Principia Mathematica in the year 1931.
In 1934, Gödel travelled to Princeton, where he gave a number of lectures on “Undecidable Propositions of Formal Mathematical Systems” at the Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS). Following his lecture, Gödel paid frequent visits to the IAS in 1935 and became very close to Einstein and Morgenstern. Frequent travelling affected his health and hence, he took a break from work and resumed teaching at the University in 1937.
Back in Vienna, when Hitler abolished the Privatdozent role, Gödel had to apply for another position at the University of Vienna. However, his application was turned down by the University because of his association with Jewish friends. Later, in 1939, Gödel left Vienna with his wife because of the chaos that had started with the World War II. They travelled to Princeton where he was offered a teaching position at the IAS.
At the IAS, Gödel got back on his feet and continued his work in mathematics. He even went on to publish his paper on “Consistency of the Axiom of Choice and of the Generalized Continuum- Hypothesis with the Axioms of Set Theory”.
Gödel first received the Albert Einstein Award from Institute of Advanced Studies in the year 1951 which consisted of a gold medal and specific prize money. Later, in 1974, Gödel received the National Medal of Science in the Math and Computer Science discipline from Gerald Ford,the then President of USA, in an award ceremony held at the White House. The award was quoted “For laying the foundation for today’s flourishing study of mathematical logic”.