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Emil Julius Gumbel

Short biography of Emil Julius Gumbel.

The mathematician Emil Julius Gumbel was born in Munich on July 18, 1891 and died in New York on September 10, 1966, regardless of both German publics. Emil Julius Gumbel was not only a very good mathematician, but also a pacifist and a staunch supporter of the first German republic, one of the few who fought unconditionally for this republic, both within Germany and later in exile.

In an exemplary manner, Emil Julius Gumbel understood how to combine his scientific work with political creativity. Emil Julius Gumbel was a Jew and an unorthodox leftist who wanted socialism, but was never committed to a party-political trend. Emil J. Gumbel studied mathematics in Munich from 1910 to 1914, did his doctorate in 1914 on the subject of "On the interpolation of the population" and habilitated in Heidelberg in 1923. Throughout his life he published an above-average number of books and scientific articles on mathematical statistics.

For political reasons, Gumbel never got a call to a German university; from 1932 to 1940 he was in France, among others at the Henri Poincare Institute in Paris, and after 1940 in the USA at various universities, including at Stanford University. In the 1950s he became internationally known as a specialist in mathematical statistics; there is a Gumbel formula that he developed to calculate the highest and lowest levels of currents and that has proven very useful in the construction of dams. His main mathematical work is the book "Statistics of extremes", published in 1958, which was regarded as groundbreaking and translated into Japanese and Russian.

But as I said, Gumbel was not only scientifically active. In 1914, like many Germans, he volunteered to go to war; however, unlike most others, he quickly became a staunch opponent of the war and in 1915 joined the "Bund Neues Vaterland", which was renamed the "Deutsche Liga für Menschenrechte" in 1921 and whose goals were democratic reforms and understanding rather than war. In 1919, Emil Gumbel's first political publication entitled "Four Years of Lies" appeared, a collection of quotations and extracts from the emperor's speeches, as well as official statements and statements by politicians and the military in the war years and before.

He himself best expressed what Emil Julius Gumbel wanted to achieve with this writing: "They are intended to make a small contribution to clarifying the unheard-of degree of lies that imperial Germany has piled up to incite the German people into this war ... The randomness of the selection may encourage every reader to investigate themselves: on which occasions have you let yourself be cheated ". Emil J. Gumbel became famous for his work "Zwei Jahre Mord", published in 1921, in which he reported on all political murders that had been committed in Germany since January 1919. He differentiated the murders after right-wing murders and left-wing murders and was able to show that 318 political murders from the right were punished with 31 years, 3 months and life imprisonment, while 16 political hordes from the left were punished with 8 death sentences and 239 years in prison .

5,000 copies were sold within four weeks, and new, updated editions kept appearing; The book was concluded in 1929 with the subtitle "Final Representation" by "Traitors are falling into love with the victims. Victim - Murderer - Judge 1919-1929". Gumbel abstained from any political commentary in these books, but let the facts speak for themselves; he was able to show that these judgments were not a series of individual judicial scandals, but that the whole judiciary was a scandal.

Emil Julius Gumbel also published other political writings, for example on topics such as the secret armament of the republic, against nationalist revenge thinking, as well as for peace and international understanding. However, his main theme remained the unmasking of terror by right-wing conspirators and secret societies; but he also denounced the left-wing murders.

Of course, he made himself very unpopular in the republic in this way, he was referred to as an arch-traitor, fatherless villain, a Jewish Bolshevik, and as early as March 1919, a lieutenant with 10 men came to his apartment to shoot Gumbel and his home plunder. But Gumbel was not at home. Right-wing radical student associations in Heidelberg in particular agitated against Gumbel and repeatedly asked for his dismissal. Finally, on August 5, 1932, Emil Julius Gumbel's teaching license was revoked and Gumbel went into exile, from which he never returned.

Even in exile, Gumbel remained politically active and an uncomfortable person; his most important political work during this period was probably the book "Free Science - A Collection Book from German Emigration", published in 1938, with the central theme of the Deformation of Science in the Nazi State.

After the liberation of Germany in 1945, Emil Julius Gumbel was not rehabilitated in any form either in the GDR or in the FRG and of course never received a call to a German university, although there is no doubt about his academic qualifications. When Emil Julius Gumbel died in New York in 1966, not a single German newspaper printed an obituary. Even in the annual reports of the German Mathematical Association, the "family paper" of German mathematicians, no obituary for Emil Julius Gumbel has appeared to date; however, Ludwig Bieberbach, the founder of "German Mathematics" and a staunch supporter of the National Socialists, was very well received with an obituary. Let us continue the work of Emil Julius Gumbel, we also try to use our scientific work for the good of humanity, as Emil Julius Gumbel wrote in his preface to the book "Statistics of extremes":

"This book is written in the hope, contrary to expectation, that humanity may profit by even a small contribution to the progress of science". (This book is written in the hope, contrary to the expectation, that humanity may also benefit from a small contribution to the advancement of science)
We highly recommend the article by W. Benz: "Emil J. Gumbel, The Career of a German Pacifist", published in the book, which is also worth reading: Walberer (ed.), May 10, 1933, Book Burning in Germany and the Consequences, Fischer Taschenbuch Nr 4245, 1983 (DM 9.80). This report is also based on the article by Benz. The article "Colleagues in the Dark Time" by M. Pinl, published in the annual reports of the German Mathematical Association, Volume 77 or 80, is almost exclusively to get used to. This article shows how the German mathematical community would like to see the years 1933 to 1945, as a "dark time" that broke out over Germany. Finally, the book E.J. in our library is quite interesting. Gumbel, Statistics of extremes, New York, 1958; the foreword and the first chapter clearly show Gumbel's view of mathematics. Of course, the other Gumbel fonts are also interesting, some of which are available as reprints; A more detailed bibliography can be found in the article by W. Benz.

(written by David Ehlers)


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