IMU Bulletin no. 43, October
Minister Rüttgers, State Secretaries Staudacher and Hauser, Governing Mayor Diepgen, Professors Hoffmann, Hirzebruch and Grötschel, fellow mathematicians, ladies and gentlemen:
Let me welcome you to the ICM'98, the 23rd International Congress of Mathematicians. It is a great honor and a great pleasure to open this Congress.
First I would like to congratulate the Organizing Committee for the superb job they have done in bringing to life this Congress. I have always been aware that the ICMs were major undertakings but only in the last four years, watching from the sidelines the huge number of decisions, negotiations and problems and the vast array of details that the Organizers have dealt with, did I appreciate all that this means. It has been a truly monumental task to which dozens of Professors and hundreds of assistants have devoted the major part of their lives for the last several years. But they have put together what we call in the U.S. a blockbuster of a Congress. Secondly, I want to say that I also did not appreciate as I should how large and how crucial was the financial assistance from the host country in keeping these Congresses affordable to all researchers in mathematics. So I would like to especially thank our German hosts for their truly remarkable financial support. We will see in a few minutes the extent and the many sources, private and public, of this magnanimous contribution.
Thirdly, I want to say that I am accustomed, as a mathematician, to being in a nearly invisible field of work. Mathematics is neither a hard science whose discoveries are widely broadcast nor an Art, which delights a major part of the public. So I am especially pleased that our Congress here in Berlin has attracted the attention of the Federal Minister of Education and Science, the State Secretaries of the German
President and the Ministry of Finance and the Governing Mayor of Berlin. I am further delighted that there is a stronger public awareness here in Berlin of mathematics and of our Congress than I can recall at any previous Congresses. During this Congress we have an opportunity to present mathematics to people engaged in other professions and the organizing committee has put together an exciting program to accomplish this, as you will hear shortly. Let me do my part by saying a few words about how mathematics relates to the broader cultural world.
Mathematics is usually explained and justified to the world at large by giving examples of important inventions that could not have been made without its help. This is embodied in the myth that we mathematicians concern ourselves with eternal truths, which we hand on to physicists, who pass them on to chemists and engineers, etc. who finally pass them on to mankind as a whole. There are definitely important examples of ideas passing along this chain (in fact in both directions!) but I also think it is a rather narrow view to isolate mathematics on such a pedestal. There is a more socially grounded view, which says that mathematics and mathematicians are deeply embedded in human culture and are tied to the Arts in particular where the love of abstraction also flourishes. Let me illustrate this.
At the beginning of this century, the great German mathematician David Hilbert carried out his extremely influential dissection of the axioms of Euclidean geometry into their logical components. Was it a coincidence that at the same time, the French impressionists were dissecting the light and color of painting into their basic components? In the 20's and 30's, the Bauhaus school of architecture was building in Germany human habitations along minimalist lines. And Bourbaki in France was rebuilding mathematics in its most abstract possible setting. It is amusing to work out more parallels between mathematics and the broad trends in human culture, such as the discovery that randomness could be more effective than precise planning, by the artist Jackson Pollock and the mathematician N. C. Metropolis at roughly the same time. But I will content myself with the assertion that the most widely renowned mathematical achievement of the last four years, the solution of Fermat's 300-year-old problem, is the quintessential post-modern theorem. The basic qualities of what is known as post-modern art and architecture are their conscious combination of idioms from every era in the past. And, indeed, Wiles' proof combines ideas from almost every branch of classical mathematics - number theory proper, algebraic geometry, Lie group theory and
analysis; and its roots go back to Kronecker's famous vision, his `Jugendtraum', in the 19th century.
Although the links are sometimes hidden, mathematics is tightly woven with all of art and science. I wish the Congress success as a forum for the exchange of ideas between mathematicians and the citizens of this remarkable city as well as between mathematicians themselves. Welcome to this celebration of the best of mathematics at the close of the 20th century!
I propose that we elect by acclamation, here and now, Professor Martin Grötschel as President of the 1998 International Congress of mathematicians and I call him to the stage.
Herr Minister, Herr Regierender Bürgermeister, verehrte Staatssekretäre, ladies and gentlemen:
I am very grateful for your vote. It is truly an honor to preside over ICM'98, the 23rd International Congress of Mathematicians.
On behalf of the Local Organizing Committee I would like to welcome you all to ICM'98, in particular, to this opening ceremony at the International Congress Center (ICC) of Berlin.
An international congress such as this is, in the language of marketing, a very ``complex product.'' Many groups, distributed all over the world, take part in the planning and preparation. I would like to reveal a few. The General Assembly of the International Mathematical Union chose Berlin as the site of ICM'98 at its meeting in Luzern in 1994.
One of the first efforts of the Organizing Committee was to find a suitable logo. We were fortunate that a flash of genius of our designer team Ott & Stein produced a beautiful arrangement of the number 1998, the year of our congress, written in Roman numerals. Please watch the short video on my left to see how ICM and ICC, the abbreviation of the name of the building we currently occupy, show up magically.
During the last four years the preparation of ICM'98 proceeded in close contact with the IMU Executive Committee, in particular, with IMU President David Mumford and IMU Secretary Jacob Palis. This was and still is an outstanding cooperation. I would like to thank both, David and Jacob, for their excellent and continuing support.
The IMU appointed the Fields Medal and the Nevanlinna Prize Committee. Their achievements will be unveiled in about 90 minutes.
The committee that is most important for the scientific success of the congress is the Program Committee. It was chaired by Phillip Griffiths, its members are shown on the slide above me.
The Program Committee has chosen 21 plenary speakers and 169 invited speakers in 19 sections. Their selection was based on 19 international panels, that also received support from other scientific societies.
I believe that this choice of leading experts, who are going to report on the mathematical achievements of the last years in their field of interest, is why most of the about 3500 members of this congress have gathered.
Some statistics: The ICM'98 participants come from 98 countries; 1% are from Australia, 2% from Africa, 12% from Asia, 20% from America, and 65% from Europe. About 12% of the members are female, 10% of the participants are students.
Whatever scientific committees do and plan, it is impossible to launch an event such as this one without substantial financial support. The Organizing Committee is greatly indebted to many public and academic bodies, private corporations and foundations, and a large number of individuals for monetary contributions and the donation of goods and services. The slides above me show the major donors. Representatives of most of our benefactors are present at this moment. Thank you very much!
Thanking individuals in speeches like this is always a sensitive matter. Nevertheless, I would like to make an exception here and mention one person specifically. Our sincere thanks go to Hermann Schunck of the Federal Ministry of Education, Science, Research, and Technology, who was a mainstay and backed the organization politically wherever he could. For the group theoretists among you: he is the person after whom Schunck classes are named, an outgrowth of his Ph.D. thesis, written in 1967 in his ``former life.''
One outcome of our fund drives and those of IMU makes us very proud. The donation of more than DM 900,000 enabled us to financially support the participation of about 460 mathematicians from developing countries and Eastern Europe. The sponsored colleagues have been selected from 1500 excellent applications and strengthened our scientific program considerably. They particularly contribute to the more than 1200 short communications and poster presentations that will, in addition to the invited lectures, be given at this meeting.
Everything I have reported so far was similar at former congresses. I believe that three features distinguish ICM'98 from previous ICMs.
First, it is the first time that extensive use of electronic communication, information, and organization was made. Almost everybody in this room has received e-mail from me. Many of you have corresponded with my colleagues and me by electronic means. This way we were able to stay in touch with our ``customers.'' We have taken up various suggestions, avoided some mistakes and were able to repair others quickly. Quite a few ``thank you letters'' indicate that many of you felt well informed about the progress of the planning.
Some statistics may highlight the ``electronic revolution'': two thirds of the ICM'98 participants registered electronically, 95% mailed their abstracts electronically, and only one of all plenary and invited papers was not submitted electronically. This made it possible to produce the proceedings before the congress and make them available in the Internet, except, of course, for the part that deals with the present Opening Ceremony.
Second, the Local Organizing Committee, in cooperation with IMU, has added an additional section, called the Section of Special Activities, where topics are covered that are of mathematical relevance but do not fit into the traditional scientific program. There will be talks, presentations, and round table discussions on electronic publishing, mathematical software, activities related to women, international comparison of mathematical studies, and a series on Berlin as a center of mathematical activity.
Third, the International Congress was extended to the general non-mathematical public. This was considered a matter of utmost importance by all members of the Organizing Committee. The activities going on these days are too numerous to be mentioned here in detail. We have rented the Urania building to attract the Berliners to listen to mathematical talks. There will be several exhibitions, music performances etc. related to mathematics. We hope that these activities will not only be of interest for the general public but also for the ICM members and their accompanying persons.
To give you an idea of what to expect, let us watch a preview of the VideoMath Festival film that will be shown several times during the congress at the Urania.
I invite you all to this festival and the other activities at the Urania.
At the end of my words of welcome, I would like to thank my colleagues in the Organizing Committee. They are all volunteers and have done the organizational work in addition to their usual duties. They have joined forces enthusiastically and have given their best to make ICM'98 an exceptional event. Let's hope that our dreams come true.
Welcome to ICM'98, welcome to Berlin. We wish you a successful conference and a pleasant stay, thank you very much!
Dear Mr. President Mumford, ladies and gentlemen, dear guests:
For the first time in 94 years the International Congress of Mathematicians returns to Germany. In the name of the German Mathematical Society I welcome you to Berlin.
My special greetings go to the State Secretary, Wilhelm Staudacher, who is representing the President of the Federal Republic of Germany today, as well as to the Minister of Education, Science, Research and Technology, Dr. Jürgen Rüttgers. I also extend a warm welcome to the Governing Mayor Eberhard Diepgen, representing the Land of Berlin.
Ladies and Gentlemen! In 1912, that is eight years after the ICM held in Heidelberg, we read in an essay of the Austrian-Bohemian writer Robert Musil:
Mathematics (as a science) is the bravery of pure reason, one of the few we have today. … It can be said that we live entirely on the results. … This whole being that runs … and stands around us not only depends on mathematics for its comprehensibility, but has effectively been created by her, rests in its … existence upon her.
A look at the program of the ICM'98 supports this assessment in an impressive way.
The broad spectrum of talks on pure and applied mathematics is supplemented by sections like Mathematical Software and by events for a non-professional audience as, for example, the VideoMath Festival and various exhibitions.
Mathematics is art and culture, but it is also the foundation of our technology based world. The Enquete Commission of the American Academy of Science has concluded:
High Technology is essentially mathematical technology.
Mathematics has not only given birth to her extremely successful daughter, computer science, but mathematical methods are also used in their own rights and thus have become the backbone of modern technology. Let me mention in this connection computer tomography, robotics, aeronautics and space science, semi-conductor technology, and material sciences.
Contrary to a general belief, well trained mathematicians are not only wanted in the academic field, but also in business, banks, and insurance companies. The Federal Institute for Employment in Nürenberg has recently reported that there are as many vacant positions for mathematicians as there are mathematicians seeking employment. The broad education that mathematicians receive provides them with the flexibility which is a characteristic of modern working environments. In view of all this, the support which mathematics receives in Germany from the German Research Council DFG, the Max Planck Society, private foundations, industry and from the Federal Ministry for Education, Science, Research and Technology is an investment for the future. We are grateful for that. These measures of support have led to the creation of research centers, exemplified in the foundation of institutions, as well as the Research Networks, the SFBs (Sonderforschungsbereiche), Programs of the DFG, and Joint Projects of the BMBF (Ministry of Science and Technology):
- 2 Max Planck Institutes: the MPI for Mathematics in Bonn and the MPI for Mathematics in the Sciences in Leipzig.
- The Institute for Applied Analysis and Stochastics of the Leibniz Society in Berlin.
- The ``Konrad-Zuse-Zentrum für Informationstechnik'' in Berlin.
- 7 SFBs of the DFG in the fields of Algebraic Geometry, Partial Differential Equations, Differential Geometry, Discrete Mathematics, Scientific Computing, and Mathematical Modelling with a total budget of DM 13 Million per year.
- 4 Programs of the DFG in the fields of Dynamical Systems, Optimization, Stochastic Systems, and Conservation Equations with a total budget of DM 11 Million.
- A Program of the BMBF for the advancement of joint projects between universities and industry.
Students as well as academics from Germany and abroad will find a rich vein of mathematical research in our universities. Although the media often deplore the lack of international collaboration in science in Germany, this criticism does not apply to mathematics.
We are happy to demonstrate this fact by having the International Congress of Mathematicians in Berlin.
We are especially grateful to Professor Friedrich Hirzebruch, who, by his reputation and his personal integrity, has helped decisively to restore the position of German mathematicians within the international community. As President of the German Mathematical Society I ask you to elect by acclamation Professor Friedrich Hirzebruch as Honorary President of the ICM'98. Let me again welcome you and wish you all an interesting scientific program and exciting days in the reunited Berlin.
Many thanks for the honour just bestowed on me. At the closing session in Zürich, I invited the congress to Berlin on behalf of the German Mathematical Society (DMV). The Organizing Committee in Berlin under Professor Martin Grötschel has worked hard and very efficiently using the most modern developments of electronic communication. As honorary president of this committee I had to do very little, but I had ample chance to admire their work. I wish to thank Professor Grötschel and all members of his committee very much, especially for making the honorary presidency so easy for me. In 1904 the Congress was in Heidelberg, supported by Kaiser Wilhelm and the Grand Duke of Baden. This time our support comes from the Federal Republic of Germany and the Land Berlin. We are grateful for the generous support. I welcome Staatssekretär Wilhelm Staudacher, who will read a message of the President of Germany, who agreed to be the protector of this Congress. The Federal support comes through the Minister of Education, Science, Research, and Technology. I welcome the Minister Dr. Jürgen Rüttgers. The Land Berlin is represented by its Governing Mayor Eberhard Diepgen. We thank the Technical University and its president Professor Hans-Jürgen Ewers for letting us use the University as venue of the Congress. In 1990 the German Mathematical Society (DMV) celebrated its 100th anniversary. Our application to issue a special postage stamp on this event was turned down. We are all the happier that for this congress a special stamp will be issued and Staatssekretär Hansgeorg Hauser will present it to us.
I mentioned the 100th anniversary of the DMV. Its first president was Georg Cantor, the founder of set theory. He was an ardent fighter for the establishment of the International Mathematical Congress. From the founding years of the DMV up to Nazi times, mathematics in Germany was leading internationally. Among the presidents of the Society in this period were Felix Klein, Alexander Wilhelm von Brill, Max Noether, David Hilbert, Alfred Pringsheim, Friedrich Engel, Kurt Hensel, Edmund Landau, Erich Hecke, Otto Blumenthal, and Hermann Weyl.
Alfred Pringsheim died in Zürich in 1941 at the age of 90 after having escaped from Germany. Edmund Landau lost his chair in Göttingen in 1934. Otto Blumenthal was deported to the concentration camp Theresienstadt, where he died in 1944. Hermann Weyl, president of our society in 1932, emigrated to the United States in 1933. He worked at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton together with Albert Einstein, Kurt Gödel, John von Neumann, who were all members of our society.
David Hilbert died in Göttingen in 1943. Hermann Weyl wrote an obituary published in the middle of the war in Great Britain and the United States. I quote: ``Not until many years after the first world war, after Felix Klein had gone and Richard Courant had succeeded him, towards the end of the sadly brief period of the German Republic, did Klein's dream of the Mathematical Institute at Göttingen come true.
But soon the Nazi storm broke and those who had laid the plans and who taught there besides Hilbert where scattered over the earth, and the years after 1933 became for Hilbert years of ever deepening tragic loneliness.''
To those ``scattered over the earth'' belongs Emmy Noether, the famous Göttingen mathematician, daughter of Max Noether, president of the German Mathematical Society in 1899.
It is not possible for me here to analyse the behaviour of the DMV and its members during the Nazi time, or its reaction to the Nazi time after the war. When we began to prepare the present congress, it was clear for us that we "must not forget.'' My generation should be unable to forget. Many of my age have good friends all over the world where parents or other family members were killed in Auschwitz. We must teach the next generation "not to forget.'' The German Mathematical Society has announced a special activity during this congress to honour the memory of the victims of the Nazi terror. I read from this announcement and ask you to participate:
In 1998, the ICM returns to Germany after an intermission of 94 years. This long interval covers the darkest period in German history. Therefore, the DMV wants to honour the memory of all those who suffered under the Nazi terror. We shall do this in the form of an exhibition presenting the biographies of 53 mathematicians from Berlin who were victims of the Nazi regime between 1933 and 1945. The fate of this small group illustrates painfully well the personal sufferings and the destruction of scientific and cultural life; it also sheds some light on the instruments of suppression and the mechanism of collaboration.
In addition, there will be a special session entitled ``Mathematics in the Third Reich and Racial and Political Persecution'' with two talks given by Joel Lebowitz (Rutgers University), "Victims, Oppressors, Activists, and Bystanders: Scientists' Response to Racial and Political Persecution,'' and Herbert Mehrtens (Technische Hochschule Braunschweig), "Mathematics and Mathematicians in Nazi Germany. History and Memory.''
Of the 53 mathematicians from Berlin honoured in the exhibition, three are here with us as guests of the Senate of Berlin and the German Mathematical Society. I greet them with pleasure and thanks. They are:
Michael Golomb, United States,
Walter Ledermann, Great Britain,
Bernhard Neumann, Australia.
The last student of the famous Berlin mathematician Issai Schur is Feodor Theilheimer who lives in the United States. It is a pleasure to welcome his daughter Rachel Theilheimer. Schur and Theilheimer both belong to the 53 mathematicians honoured in the exhibition.
In addition, I welcome
Driven away from Vienna, who emigrated to the United States and is with us today as a guest of the DMV.
In 1961 I became president of the DMV as successor of Ott-Heinrich Keller from Halle in the German Democratic Republic (DDR). The wall had just been built. The Mathematical Society of the DDR was founded. In 1990 I was president again and had to work for the reintegration of the DDR society into the DMV.
We look hopefully into the future and are happy as the reunited DMV to host the congress.
Progress and future of mathematics are represented by the laureates of the Fields medal and the Nevanlinna prize. It will be a great honour and pleasure for me to hand over the Fields medals to the winners.