Mathematics at the university of Göttingen
Search| Deutsch

Construction of the Mathematical Institute

Felix Klein's idea - Rockefeller's money

When the Göttinger Tageblatt reported the inauguration of the Mathematics Institute on December 4, 1929, the political headline read: "Cash difficulties of the Reich." Five banks had just closed their doors, and two shipping companies in Hamburg and an engine works in Kassel had stopped their payments. The state was negotiating "for the satisfaction of its financial needs" by bank loans. For a payment of 500 million Marks, the Reich had granted a monopoly on matches to the Swedish manufacturer Kreuger.

Considering such a difficult financial situation, it seems unsurprising that the same newspaper wrote on November 12, 1929, under the headline "The new Mathematics Institute - Felix Klein's idea - Rockefeller's money".

As absurd as it may seem: the Prussian state does not at all welcome the promised gift with open arms, because with the acceptance of the donation it undertook the obligation to carry the burden of the maintenance and support of the institute, which entail far higher costs than those of the Göttingen Mathematical Faculty so far.

If it finally accepted the donation, this happened with the awareness that the gift represented an acknowledgment of the German research spirit and further, that because they make possible the better scientific training of the academic youth and because they would benefit the successes and results of the mathematical research of German economy and industry with which they have many close connections, the increased costs of the institute would bring many returns.

In its description of the new Mathematics Institute, the Göttinger Tageblatt reported on November 12, 1929 that the builder had succeeded in constructing a building which satisfies all modern needs and which was so rigorous in the avoidance of all unnecessary comforts that future maintenance costs had been reduced to a minimum. The new building contained "...lecture rooms, the reading rooms and library, the model collection, various spaces for visiting scholars who stay temporarily in Göttingen and wish to work in the Mathematics Institute, the auditorium maximum and the meeting room of the Mathematical Society. All of the rooms are brightly painted and expediently furnished; large windows let in light and air unhindered. The meeting room of the Mathematical Society has been arranged with special care, a fitting wood finish giving the area the character of a place of serious research... in the reading room, furnished with Caucasian walnut tree wood, is the rich library of the institute... an embellishment of the university... and a worthy place of research for scholars and of study for students." The library of the Mathematics Institute in Göttingen is to this very day considered one of the most important in the world.