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Oct 12, 2010

Constantin Carathéodory

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Constantin Carathéodory (or Constantine Karatheodori) (Greek: Κωνσταντίνος Καραθεοδωρή) (September 13, 1873 – February 2, 1950) was a Greek mathematician. He made significant contributions to the theory of functions of a real variable, the calculus of variations, and measure theory. His work also includes important results in conformal representations and in the theory of boundary correspondence. In 1909, Carathéodory pioneered the Axiomatic Formulation of Thermodynamics along a purely geometrical approach.
In 1909, Carathéodory published a pioneering work "Investigations on the Foundations of Thermodynamics" (Untersuchungen ueber die Grundlagen der Thermodynamik, Math. Ann., 67 (1909) p. 355-386) in which he formulated the Laws of Thermodynamics axiomatically, using only mechanical concepts and the theory of Pfaff's differential forms.
Carathéodory excelled at languages, much like many members of his family did. Greek and French were his first languages, and he mastered German with such perfection, that his writings composed in the German language are stylistic masterworks. Carathéodory also spoke and wrote English, Italian, Turkish, and the ancient languages without any effort. Such an impressive linguistic arsenal enabled him to communicate and exchange ideas directly with other mathematicians during his numerous travels, and greatly extend his fields of knowledge.

On December 19, 2005, Israeli officials along with Israel's ambassador to Athens, Ram Aviram, presented the Greek foreign ministry with copies of 10 letters between Albert Einstein and Constantin Carathéodory [Karatheodoris] that suggest that the work of Carathéodory helped shape some of Albert Einstein's theories. The letters were part of a long correspondence which lasted from 1916 to 1930. Aviram said that according to experts at the National Archives of Israel — custodians of the original letters — the mathematical side of Einstein's physics theory was partly substantiated through the work of Carathéodory. Unfortunately verification of these claims is not possible because the content of the letters has not been made public. Known correspondence Carathéodory-Einstein can be seen as facsimile in Einstein Archives Online (11 items). Three letters concern mathematics and these are printed in vol.8 of Einstein's Collected Works (Princeton Univ. Press 1987)

The Greek authorities intended for a long time to create a museum honoring Karatheodoris in Komotini, a major town of the northeastern Greek region which is close to where his family came from. On March 21, 2009 the museum "Karatheodoris"(Καραθεοδωρής) opened its gates to the public, in Komotini.

In 1924 Carathéodory was appointed professor of mathematics at the University of Munich, and held this position until retirement in 1938. He afterwards worked from the Bavarian Academy of Sciences until his death in 1950.