David Hilbert

David Hilbert (1862 – 1943) was a German mathematician. He is recognized as one of the most influential and universal mathematicians of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Hilbert discovered and developed a broad range of fundamental ideas in many areas, including invariant theory and the axiomatization of geometry. He also formulated the theory of Hilbert spaces, one of the foundations of functional analysis.

Hilbert adopted and warmly defended Georg Cantor’s set theory and transfinite numbers. A famous example of his leadership in mathematics is his 1900 presentation of a collection of problems that set the course for much of the mathematical research of the 20th century.

Hilbert and his students contributed significantly to establishing rigor and developed important tools used in modern mathematical physics. Hilbert is known as one of the founders of proof theory and mathematical logic, as well as for being among the first to distinguish between mathematics and meta/mathematics.

Geometry, like arithmetic, requires for its logical development only a small number of simple, fundamental principles. These fundamental principles are called the axioms of geometry. The choice of the axioms and the investigation of their relations to one another is a problem which, since the time of Euclid, has been discussed in numerous excellent memoirs to be found in the mathematical literature. This problem is tantamount to the logical analysis of our intuition of space.

The following investigation is a new attempt to choose for geometry a simple and complete set of independent axioms and to deduce from these the most important geometrical theorems in such a manner as to bring out as clearly as possible the significance of the different groups of axioms and the scope of the conclusions to be derived from the individual axioms.

The Foundations of Geometry

The Foundations of Geometry

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The material contained in the following translation was given in substance by Professor Hilbert as a course of lectures on euclidean geometry at the University of G¨ottingen during the winter semester of 1898–1899. The results of his investigation were re-arranged and put into the form in which they appear here as a memorial address published in connection with the celebration at the unveiling of the Gauss-Weber monument at G¨ottingen, in June, 1899. In the French edition, which appeared soon after, Professor Hilbert made some additions, particularly in the concluding remarks, where he gave an account of the results of a recent investigation made by Dr. Dehn.

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