Nathan Jacobson was one of the leading algebraists in the last century. Several mathematical objects are named after him such as the Jacobson radical. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nathan_Jacobson .

I wonder what is the right pronunciation of his name. Most often his name is pronunced as an american name but it sounds like a German name. I am asking this because two people at (different) conferences told me to pronounce his name in the right way. One said the american way is right and the other said that it is a German name. I do not know what is right, but I heard that his students used his american name.

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    $\begingroup$ He is from the US, so American pronunciation is “correct”. I have never heard it pronounced in a German way by people speaking English. I have also essentially never (1 exception) heard anyone speaking English pronounce Jacobi in the German way (if not a native German speaker), while Fermat in English is pronounced the French way (silent t). $\endgroup$
    – KCd
    Oct 23, 2020 at 21:17
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    $\begingroup$ According to his Wikipedia page, he was born in Warsaw in 1910 and came to America in 1918. Presumably his name was pronounced "Yakobson" by his parents, at least for a while. $\endgroup$ Oct 23, 2020 at 22:58
  • $\begingroup$ The reason why I think this question is off-topic is the following meta-post: hsm.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/1/…. Of course, it is possible that the consensus on this issue has changed since then, and you might ask a new question on meta to gauge this. $\endgroup$
    – Danu
    Oct 28, 2020 at 18:37

1 Answer 1


When I was a sort of postdoc at Yale in the mid-to-late 1970s, Nate Jacobson was still very much alive and doing stuff. His name was always pronounced "in the American style", not with "J" as "Y" as in German. (... though I imagine the situation was different in his parents or earlier generations, for obvious reasons).

By the way, the style of pronouncing Jacobi's name when I was in grad school ages ago, which I still use, is "J" as "Y", in German style, not American style. This surely was partly influenced by the fact that in those days the first language of many of the faculty was not English, etc.


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