Abraham Fraenkel grandpère writes on page 127 of his book recently translated into English:

My professional career began in March 1919 with... an invitation to Göttingen to Privy Counselor Felix Klein, almost 70 years of age, but still active as the "foreign minister" of German mathematics.

Is this to be interpreted as saying that Klein sought out Fraenkel's appointment at Göttingen?

Edit: As pointed out by @user37237, Klein actually invited Fraenkel to write an article on "number". I assume Fraenkel was already known at the time as a rising star in the new abstract field of axiomatic set theory. The fact that Klein asked Fraenkel to write an article on "number" seems to indicate that Klein still adhered to the importance of the arithmetisation of analysis, a term he coined in his 1895 Goettingen address.

Is it reasonable to assume that Klein invited Fraenkel to write an article on "number" because Klein considered set theory to be the foundation of such an arithmetisation?


1 Answer 1


Fraenkel writes: >> ... Felix Klein. Er bat mich, in den von ihm herausgegebenen „Materialien für eine Wissenschaftliche Biographie von Gauß“ das Thema Zahlbegriff und Algebra zu behandeln. Das von mir verfaßte Heft VIII der „Materialien“ erschien 1920.<<

This contribution to a scientific biography of Gauß seems to be the reason of Klein's invitation. An intended appointment of Fraenkel to Göttingen by Klein appears improbable because there are records about planned appointments in Klein's Nachlass in the Niedersächsische Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Göttingen http://hans.sub.uni-goettingen.de/nachlaesse/Klein.pdf but Fraenkels Name does not appear there.

  • $\begingroup$ This is interesting. But Fraenkel does say that his "professional career began" with an invitation to Klein at Goettingen. Also, there are many levels of appointments, and the junior level that Fraenkel was presumably slated for may not appear in the listings you linked. How do you square this with what Fraenkel himself wrote in his autobiography? $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 30, 2017 at 12:26
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    $\begingroup$ What is the source of your quotations exactly? Is it the original German edition of Fraenkel's autobiography? If so, it wasn't translated very literally. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 30, 2017 at 12:29
  • $\begingroup$ P.S. I see that the comment about Gauss is there in the English edition as well on page 127, though perhaps in a slightly different order. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 30, 2017 at 12:43
  • $\begingroup$ @Mikhail: My primary source is the Ordner ‘Fraenkel’ mathi.uni-heidelberg.de/~roquette/Transkriptionen/… including many letters and some quotes of his book Lebenskreise. $\endgroup$
    – user5707
    Commented Apr 30, 2017 at 15:34
  • $\begingroup$ user, this is very interesting. I don't really read German and when push comes to shove (i.e., translating certain passage becomes essential) I have to rely on my coauthors. I would much appreciate if you could cite some relevant material. The superficial impression given by Fraenkel going to visit Klein at Goettingen is the visionary aspect of Klein, who could appreciate young genius even when the former (Klein) was 70 and the latter (Fraenkel) was barely 25. Is this confirmed by the material you saw? $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 30, 2017 at 15:37

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