1897 International Congress of Mathematicians - Zurich, Switzerland


The International Congress of Mathematicians was held in Zurich, Switzerland from 9 August to 11 August 1897. The Congress was attended by 208 full members and 38 associate members. We give below a version of:
  1. History of the Congress
  2. Welcoming Speech by Adolf Hurwitz
  3. Opening Speech by Carl Friedrich Geiser
  4. On the tasks and the organisation of international mathematical congresses by Ferdinand Rudio
  5. Closing Speech by Carl Friedrich Geiser
  6. Social Programme of the Congress
Before presenting the material, we give a short Preface.

Preface by EFR and JJOC.

Georg Cantor was one of the first to press for international mathematical conferences. In 1888 he proposed a meeting between German and French mathematicians and later, between 1894 and 1896, he contacted several leading mathematicians proposing an international conference. He had support from Felix Klein, Heinrich Weber, Émile Lemoine and others. Cantor proposed that a trial conference be held in 1897, either in Switzerland or Belgium. He realised that neutral options were necessary to get both French and German mathematicians to attend. He suggested that the first actual conference be in Paris in 1900. It quickly became clear that of the two options, Switzerland or Belgium, Switzerland was favoured because of its international reputation. The German Mathematical Society and the French Mathematical Society approved these ideas and agreed to contact Carl Geiser in Zurich. The 1897 congress proved so successful that, rather than considering it a trial congress, it became the first International Congress of Mathematicians. We note that the regulations set out at this Congress were the guiding principles of the following congresses and still today influence the style of the congresses.

1.       History of the Congress.

After the plan for an International Congress of Mathematicians had been proposed several years ago and since then had been eagerly discussed by experts from a wide variety of nations, the Zurich mathematicians were asked repeatedly whether they were ready to make a first attempt and to hold an international mathematicians' meeting.

Since the proposal met with all-round sympathy in Switzerland and abroad, Professor C F Geiser undertook to invite Zurich's mathematicians to a preliminary discussion of the matter on Tuesday, 21 July, through a circular dated 16 July 1896.
Zurich, 16th July 1896

Dear Sir!

As you will know, it has already been suggested several times to unite the mathematicians of different countries at an international congress, which would have to be repeated at appropriate intervals. Recently, it has been proposed specifically (notably by Messrs Heinrich Weber in Strasbourg and Felix Klein in Göttingen) that a first such meeting should be held in Zurich in 1897.

The executive committees of the German Mathematical Society and the Société mathématique de France approved this project and the presidents of the aforementioned societies contacted me to that effect.

I hereupon arranged for the potentially necessary introductory steps to be taken by the Zurich mathematicians and invite you to attend a preliminary meeting on Tuesday, 21st July, 5pm, in the conference room 10c of the Polytechnic.

Yours respectfully

Geiser
The meeting was very well attended and everyone present expressed the most lively interest in the project. After Professor Geiser had given a detailed presentation that mathematicians from abroad would like it if the Zurich company took the initiative after carefully weighing up the pros and cons of such an enterprise and pointing out its great importance, the meeting unanimously decided to follow the wishes expressed by its peers and to take over the convening of an international mathematicians' congress for 1897. At the same time, a committee consisting of professors C F Geiser, F Rudio, A Hurwitz, J Franel, F H Weber and assistants J Rebstein and G Dumas was chosen and tasked with the necessary preparations. The first elected, Professor Geiser, was also designated as the Chairman of the Organising Committee.

During the autumn holidays, the committee met with those foreign mathematicians who were particularly interested in the enterprise in oral and written correspondence to receive their views and wishes regarding the time, duration and organisation of the congress to be organised. In particular, when visiting the natural scientists' meeting in Frankfurt, Professor Rudio had the opportunity to get in touch with the members of the Deutsche Mathematiker-Vereinigung and communicate and discuss with them personally about a number of questions.

After such preparations, the committee met for the first time on 12 November 1896. Some important fundamental decisions were already taken in this meeting. In agreement with the majority of the requests made to the committee, it was determined that the congress should take place on 9, 10 and 11 August 1897. According to the model of the large scientific meetings, for example of the Swiss natural science society, section meetings should also take place in addition to plenary sessions, but in the latter only lectures of more general interest should be given, to which, especially considering the international nature of the congress, special invitations should be issued. Obtaining the necessary funds was described as an internal matter. It was also decided not to send the invitations to attend the congress to the various mathematical societies, but to the experts, and for this purpose to expand the Zurich Committee to an international committee by adjoining mathematicians from other countries.

In the following meeting on 8 December 1896, to which all mathematicians in Zurich were again invited, Professor Rudio first read out the invitation circular he had written to the committee. The assembly approved the same and approved the other decisions of the committee. Thereupon Professor Geiser shared the names of those mathematicians from abroad who had agreed to join the Zurich Committee and accept the invitations with it.

The international committee thus formed now sent the aforementioned invitation circular in January 1897, which read as follows.
International Congress of Mathematicians in Zurich 1897

Zurich, January 1897

To Mr ...

Dear Sir!

As you will know, the question of an international mathematicians' congress has long been the subject of lively negotiations among experts. With regard to the successes achieved through international understanding in other fields of knowledge, the desirability of an international association, including among mathematicians, was unanimously emphasised by all who dealt with the question. After the project had begun to take on a more solid shape due to numerous verbal and written correspondences and the question of location had been repeatedly considered, it was generally described as expedient that the first attempt should start from a country which, due to its location, its circumstances and because of its tradition, is particularly suitable for establishing international relations. So soon all eyes turned to Switzerland and especially Zurich.

Although the mathematicians from Zurich did not hide the difficulty of the enterprise, they believed that, in the interests of the cause, they should not be allowed to dismiss the suggestions that had come to them from various sides. They were therefore happy to accept making the necessary preparations to convene an international mathematicians' congress and, as far as it was up to them, to promote the enterprise to the best of their ability. Mathematicians from other nations joined them, and so the international committee (whose members we list below) met, with the task of organising a meeting of mathematicians from all over the world in Zurich in 1897.

The congress, to which you are hereby invited, dear sir, to be devotedly invited by the committee, is to take place in Zurich on 9, 10 and 11 August 1897 in the rooms of the Federal Polytechnic. The committee will not fail to present you with a more detailed work programme in good time and then to ask for your commitment to participate in the congress. After all, it should already be pointed out that naturally the scientific and business negotiations will preferably be grouped around questions that have a more general interest and that are of fundamental importance.

However, the importance of scientific congresses is mainly based on cultivating personal relationships. The local committee will be happy to pay attention to this side of the congress to be held and to take this into account by designing a modest social program.

May the expectations attached to this first international mathematicians' congress come true! May a large number of participants demand the scientific and personal relationships of their peers in the interest of joint work and the progress of mathematical science!

H Bleuler, President of the Swiss School Council, Zurich. H Burkhardt, Professor at the University of Zurich. L Cremona, Professor in Rome. G Dumas, Assistant at the Federal Polytechnic, Zurich. J Franel, Professor at the Federal Polytechnic, Zurich. C F Geiser, Professor at the Federal Polytechnic, Zurich. A G Greenhill, Professor in Woolwich. A Herzog, Director of the Federal Polytechnic, Zurich. G W Hill, Professor in West-Nyack (U.S.A.). A Hurwitz, Professor at the Federal Polytechnic, Zurich. F Klein, Professor in Göttingen. A Markov, Professor in Petersburg. F Mertens, Professor in Vienna. H Minkowski, Professor at the Federal Polytechnic, Zurich. G Mittag-Leffler, Professor in Stockholm. G Oltramare, Professor in Geneva. H Poincaré, Professor in Paris. J Rebstein, assistant at the Federal Polytechnic, Zurich. F Rudio, Professor at the Federal Polytechnic, Zurich. K VonderMühll, Professor in Basel. F H Weber, Professor at the Federal Polytechnic, Zurich.

Correspondence in matters relating to the congress should be directed to Professor Geiser, Küsnacht-Zurich.
The circular was sent to 2000 mathematicians and mathematical physicists, some with the text in German and some in French.

These as well as the subsequent Circular were dispatched in such a way that in each of the larger countries one representative took over the task of distributing a suitable number of the copies printed in Zurich in his country, or at the same time in the neighbouring countries. The following gentlemen were kind enough to agree to this task:
Greenhill (Woolwich), Guccia (Palermo), Gutzmer (Halle), Hill (West-Nyack), Klein (Göttingen), Laisant (Paris), Mansion (Gent), Markov (St Petersburg), Mertens (Vienna), Mittag-Leffler (Stockholm), Schoute (Groningen), Stéphanos (Athens) and Teixeira (Porto).
In addition, the editors of a large number of mathematical journals ensured that the invitation circulars were distributed in a suitable manner by partly printing them and partly enclosing them.

In the same general meeting of 8 December 1896, in which the mode of the invitations had been determined, the necessary sub-committees were chosen, which assist the previous committee, as the organising committee for the actual conference negotiations, and especially should be concerned with the social part of the congress. Four such committees were appointed:

Reception Committee: Professor Hurwitz (Chairman), Professor Bützberger, Assistant Dumas;

Economic Committee: Professor Rudio (Chairman), Professor Franel, Professor Adolf Kiefer;

Entertainment Committee: Professor Herzog (Chairman), Professor Minkowski, Assistant Rebstein;

Finance Committee: Professor Gröbli (Chairman), Professor Rebstein, Professor Lacombe.

It would go too far to follow the work of these various committees in detail. The results of their deliberations can be found in the course of the congress itself. Only a few points should be pointed out.

Above all, it should be emphasised that not only the city and the canton of Zurich, but also the Swiss Confederation recognised the honour that the first international mathematicians' congress should take place on Swiss soil. The subsidies, which the committee owed to the federal, cantonal and city authorities, but also to a large number of private individuals, especially members of the commercial society, bear witness to the high level of interest shown in the congress. These subsidies not only enabled the committee to run the enterprise in a way that it deemed appropriate, but they also made it possible for it to subsequently publish the proceedings of the Congress in the form that it had in mind from the start.

2.       Welcoming Speech by Adolf Hurwitz.

Sunday 8 August 1897, 21:00 in Tonhalle, Zurich's concert hall.
Dear foreign colleagues!

Please allow me to cordially welcome you with a few words on behalf of the mathematicians in Zurich. Many of you have rushed here from afar, following the call that we have sent out to all countries in which mathematical hearts beat. We are exhilarated by the strong response to our call: close to 200 peers followed our invitation and have gathered here for joint serious work and merry, comfortable get-togethers.

It is true that the great thoughts of our science were created and developed in a scholar's quiet room in most cases; no other science, with the exception of philosophy, has such a brooding and hermitic character to it as mathematics. But still, a mathematician also feels the need to communicate and discuss with their peers. Surely each one of us has already experienced what an inspiring power is inherent in personal scientific communication.

May this inspiring power of personal contact prove itself in these days as well, where we are offered so many and diverse opportunities for scientific discussion.

May we also enjoy the cheerful and informal company of our peers, enhanced by the knowledge that representatives of various nations feel connected in peace and friendship by the most ideal interests.

Once again, my dear peers, I call out to you:

Welcome to Zurich!
3.       Opening Speech by Carl Friedrich Geiser.
Monday 9 August 1897, Auditorium of the Eidgenössische Polytechnikum.
Dear attendees!

I warmly welcome you all on behalf of the society formed by peers from various countries, which issued the invitation to the first international congress of mathematicians. In particular, I am delighted to welcome you on behalf of my colleagues from Zurich. To them, the fact that so many of you have appeared guarantees that you have met our request to meet in our town with kind and approving acceptance. Admittedly, we were very apprehensive when it was first suggested that we take on the congress. However, we told ourselves that the location of Zurich at the crossing point of the big routes from Paris to Vienna and from Berlin to Rome would forward the success of this endeavour considerably. Moreover, we chose these festive days to be in a time in which Switzerland already is a major gathering point of those who seek tranquillity and recreation, courage and strength for new chores. Thus it will be tempting for you to spend a few days or weeks in the invigorating proximity of our cascading brooks and rustling fir trees, in the tranquil view of our blue lakes and green mountain pastures or right amongst the rough rocks and cold glaciers of our high mountains after the efforts of our joint work.

According to the simple customs of this country and the - after all still basic - conditions of the town, we cannot offer you much in terms of exterior decoration and glamour at our meetings. So, from this point of view, we should scarcely have dared to inaugurate the series of the international congresses of mathematicians. Therefore, please do not misinterpret it as immodesty that instead we commemorate the part Switzerland has played in the development of the exact sciences in the last centuries in the artistic decoration of the identification card. As it were, by showing you our great mathematicians we put our meeting under the protection of these powerful spirits.

You can see the three greatest of the wonderful Bernoulli family. In the centre we have Jakob Bernoulli, on whose withdrawn and forceful features there still seems to be a remote and belated reflection of the iron-filled and gunpowder-blackened times of the Thirty Years' War. To his right Johannes, who turns away from brother and son in the proud self-confidence of a Roi soleil of science. To the left Daniel Bernoulli, whose suave and likeable features confirm everything his contemporaries convey to us about his modesty and his courteousness. It has been said about Jakob Bernoulli and Johannes Bernoulli that they have contributed more to differentiation and integration than their creators. The history of the kinetic theory of gases, of the mechanic theory of heat, of the principle of the conservation of energy mentions Daniel Bernoulli among the greatest mathematical physicists of all times.

Next is Leonhard Euler, who in the middle of the last century took a universal position in our sciences, similar to Voltaire's position in literature. His significance cannot be illustrated better than by the fact that the Parisian Academy of Sciences quite extraordinarily elected him as one of its external members in 1755. This was at a point when all of the eight positions designated by the constitution were filled. "L'extrême rareté de ces sortes d'arrangements est une distinction trop marquée pour ne pas Vous en faire l'observation", Minister d'Argenson wrote to him. Let us bring to mind that, when the eight Associés étrangers were nominated for the first time in 1699, the two Bernoulli brothers were elected alongside Newton and Leibniz; and let us add that later on Euler was one of these foreign academics at the same time as Daniel Bernoulli and Albrecht von Haller. Then we may regard it as a consoling turn of fate that, in times of the inexorably proceeding political decline of the old Confederation, the scientific significance of Switzerland was on an unequalled high - admittedly a high that since has not been reached even from afar.

Our century is represented by Jakob Steiner, the sovereign in the realm of synthetic geometry. In today's meeting I can spot men who sat at the feet of the master; and one of my most important personal memories is having stepped into the magical circle of this unforgettable man. Yet his figure is already surrounded by a legendary sheen, as if he was separated from us by centuries. In our memory he lives on as the bold shepherd lad who successfully mingles with the greatest minds of science. Thus he appears to be a worthy son of the people, of which it says in Tasso's Gerusalemme liberata:
E con la man che guidò rozzi armenti
Par che I regi sfidar nulla paventi. *
One of the noblest creations of Gottfried Semper, the central block of the Polytechnic, forms the architectural completion of our series of portraits. Not only do we want to provide you with a memento of the place where your scientific and business discussions will take place. At the same time we would like to draw your attention to the importance of the polytechnics for mathematics and its applications nowadays. In a report on the development of mathematics at the German universities, which was written for the world exhibition in Chicago, the influence that the foundation of the Parisian Polytechnic School had on research and teaching is described. It is furthermore pointed out how, since the middle of our century, scientifically brilliant mathematicians have been appointed to German-speaking technical educational establishments. Announcements of this kind let us hope that old, unsubstantiated prejudices would disappear little by little and that the full equality of all institutions of higher education would be accepted more and more. But more recent movements show that, in certain circles, the duties of higher technical education do not seem to be fully clarified and standardised yet. On one side, there are loud voices from the practical side: mathematics is granted too much importance. The other side demands, no less resolutely, that the final and highest education of technicians should be reserved for universities.

We gratefully acknowledge that the congress wants to dedicate some of its work to these important questions. A distinguished technician will rise to speak about this topic", and without a doubt we will hear a most qualified theorist talk about these questions as well. But whatever the conclusions in talks and discussions may turn out to be: affirmative, restrictive or dismissive - they will not vitally influence the natural way that the polytechnics will have to follow. For students and teachers, for the practising technician and the scientist in the area of pure science there is only one choice: a lasting success can only be achieved by him who tirelessly strives for the highest goal with all his soul.

Dear assembly!

You will not expect that in my opening speech I talk about the duties and the uses of mathematical congresses in great detail; this will still happen today. Just allow me a short concluding remark.

Surely none of us will believe that in future the solution of great problems in science will be the result of such meetings. Though they may seem to be thoroughly objective truths, the highest accomplishments in all intellectual fields bear a quite personal stamp, which is only blurred and damaged by external interference. Who doesn't think about legendary treasures that have to be silently retrieved by innocent hands when thinking about Riemann's creations, developed in tranquil solitude? And don't Weierstrass's fundamental papers reflect the man's magnificent simplicity, independence and completeness?

But extensive and abundant fields remain accessible to collaborative work; areas of research that can be cultivated purposefully and successfully only through the simultaneous utilisation of numerous forces. And the effects of such gatherings do not remain constricted to the inner circle of the immediate participants. The noble competition in selfless dedication to an ideal goal also encourages others to similar efforts.

Especially in our country, the representatives of intellectual life are open to and grateful for any suggestions. Every day reminds us how small our regional borders are. When the sun descends into the depths of the eastbound valleys of Grisons in the morning, it already lights up the ravines of the Jura, through which the Rhone pushes when leaving Geneva. And when the last ray of sunlight disappears from the peaks of the Bernina group, then the giant snow-capped mountains that surround the high valley of Zermatt go pale, too. By engrossing our minds in your papers and their results with respectful attention, we liberate ourselves from spatial and temporal boundaries. We gain an intellectual citizenship in an empire of infinite dimensions: it is the empire of science, of which it can be said in a higher and nobler sense than of the empire of Karl V, that in it the sun never sets.
4.       On the tasks and the organisation of international mathematical congresses by Ferdinand Rudio.
Monday 9 August 1897, Auditorium of the Eidgenössische Polytechnikum.
Dear Assembly!

I have the honour to address you with a few words on the duties and the organisation of international congresses of mathematicians on behalf of the organising committee. Of course, you will not expect that we stand here before you with an elaborately worked out programme already now. After all, today's task is to lay the foundations of a project, and the future will show which fruits this project will bear. However, we may look forward to that future with confidence. We are entitled to do so by the great interest with which the invitations to an international congress of mathematicians were met by peers of various countries. In particular, we are entitled to do so by the grand assembly that has gathered for joint work in the auditorium of the Federal Polytechnic today.

Dear attendees, please allow me to draw your attention to a few organisational questions first. In your hands you are holding "regulations" devised by the committee, as well as "resolutions" that will be subjected to your judgement. The articles treating organisation in the regulations concern mainly the rules of procedure of this year's congress and need not be touched at this instance. Therefore, I will immediately turn to the resolutions, which I want to present to you one by one.

Resolutions of the International Congress of Mathematicians in Zurich, 1897
  1. Henceforth, international mathematical congresses shall be held in intervals of 3-5 years and in due consideration of the various countries.

  2. In the closing ceremony of each congress, the dates and place of the next congress as well as its organising and inviting bodies shall be designated.

  3. Should any circumstances make it impossible to hold a congress on the designated dates and in the designated place, the executive committee of the previous congress is authorised to make the necessary arrangements for calling a new congress, as may be the case. For this purpose, it will also contact the bodies defined in resolution II.

  4. For tasks of an international nature, whose solution requires a fixed organisation, each congress may nominate a permanent sub-committee, whose period of office lasts until the next congress.

    The responsibilities and liabilities of such sub-committees shall be determined every time such a sub-committee is nominated.

  5. The next congress shall be held in Paris in 1900. The Société Mathématique de France is commissioned with its preparation and organisation.
Dear attendees, these are essentially the standards with which the next international congresses of mathematicians shall comply. They are kept as simple and transparent as possible on purpose, and should suffice for the beginning.

But now, what are the problems that can be expected to be solved by these international congresses? A sketch, but really just a sketch of these problems is contained by article 1 of the regulations with which you have been presented. To begin with, it says there:
The congress has the purpose of furthering the personal relations between the mathematicians of various countries.
Dear attendees! If you glance at the programme, if you have a look around in this hall, then you cannot help but thinking that the international congresses of mathematicians would have a right to exist even if their only purpose was to bring the mathematicians of all countries of the Earth closer together, to give them opportunities to exchange ideas with each other; but also opportunities to communicate in a friendly way as it is brought about by the pursuit of common ideals. Fostering personal relations and the resulting direct and indirect advancement of science will always form an essential point in the programmes of national and international science societies.

But let us not remain here. In article 1 of the regulations it continues as follows:

"The congress has the purpose of providing, in the talks of the main assemblies and of the section sessions, an overview of the current state of the various fields of mathematical sciences and their applications, as well as the treatment of individual problems of particular importance."

Ladies and Gentlemen! Shall I explicitly point out how completely different the spoken word appears compared to the written or printed word, how a display only gains shape, colour, warmth, in a nutshell: life, through the personality of the speaker? It should be unnecessary to linger on at this point and in front of this audience.

But precisely the talks that can be expected for the main assemblies of our congresses, already give reason to very specific, well-defined areas for international activity. These talks will, in most cases, naturally be clearly arranged presentations on the historic development and the current state of individual areas of science. Now should it not be possible to group these presentations together according to certain aspects and distribute them in a suitable manner among the mathematicians of various nations so that they can work on them systematically? All we would do would be to follow the example which has been given by the German Mathematical Society for several years, and which is represented by the works of Messrs Brill and Noether, Franz Meyer and others, on an international level. By doing this, we would attain a systematic sequence of historic monographs within a short amount of time. At the same time - I am following an idea of Mr Eneström here - we would arrive at a methodical sequel of the grand opus that Mr Moritz Cantor is about to finish with the year 1759, and whose continuation should be far beyond the strength of one individual.

Viribus unitis! shall be our watchword. With united forces it shall be possible to solve problems, which could not even have been attempted until now due to a lack of cooperation. When asked to give an example, please give me, on Swiss soil, credit for thinking about publishing the works of Leonhard Euler, for example. This is an obligation of honour, which until now could not have been fulfilled by the mathematical world. As is generally known, an important precondition for setting to work on this mammoth task has been fulfilled now, after our American colleague Hagen published a complete list of Euler's works last year. You also know from the communications of Mr Hagen that publishing these works no longer counts as a utopia; in fact, that maybe all it needs is international moral support.

Of course, I wanted to mention only one example for joint literary undertakings here. Further examples, though of a completely different nature to the one mentioned, could be added by using the manifold suggestions with which the committee was approached from various sides. I will mention, purely objectively and without giving my personal opinion: the possibly annual publication of an address book of all mathematicians in the world, including a declaration of their particular research interest; the publication of a biographical-literary dictionary of all currently living mathematicians with their portraits; the publication of a mathematical literature journal.

Furthermore, one could think of holding international scientific expositions, for example following the model of the nice exposition that took place under the aegis of Mr von Dyck in Munich in 1893.

Among the literary undertakings, one has to be pointed out in particular. Article 7 of the regulations mentions the printing of the proceedings of the congress. There is no doubt that this and corresponding similar publications will contribute significantly to furthering our collaboration and to raising the feeling of togetherness among the mathematicians.

Also, we received suggestions regarding questions of terminology and of international agreement on the choice of certain mathematical units. Similar to international meetings where people came to mutual consent regarding the most important physical units like Volt, Ampere, Ohm; one should aim for an international agreement on the partition of angles, for example. As is well known, it was attempted in Germany and France to switch over to decimal partition of angles, which of course provides significant advantages for calculations. But now this has created an inequality: some keep the old degrees and divide only them decimally, others want to decimally and centesimally divide only the quadrants, and again others the entire periphery. It is therefore said to be a task of international communication to eliminate the disparity prevalent in more recent tables by deciding on uniform angular dimensions.

Of course, it cannot be the intention of my presentation to get lost in details. Therefore, I will confine myself to discussing only one more point in particular; though it should currently be by far the most important one. The most important one, because it concerns a question that has become urgent and that demands to be tackled energetically. I mean the question of mathematical bibliography.

Completely leaving aside for now what has been done in this area so far and what is still being done, and deliberately not mentioning which institutes currently work on these papers for the time being, I just want to quickly characterise the goal that should be aimed for.

What is of the utmost importance to any science, not just to mathematics, due to today's enormous productivity and the associated literary fragmentation, is an efficient and continuous bibliography.

The purpose of such a bibliography is, amongst others, to give anyone who is interested in any field, say number theory, information about everything that has been published in this field anywhere in the world, not just in the last few years, but in the last few months and weeks. This is done by exactly copying the titles of the publications. Such a bibliography for a certain science can only be provided by an international institution, i.e. through international collaboration. This can only be done successfully when a universally approved classification for the respective science exists. Now, dear attendees, unfortunately we do not yet have such a universally approved classification accepted by all peers in mathematics. However, we do have a number of classifications that all work excellently in their own ways. May I remind you of the classification of the Parisian bibliographic congress that was held in 1889 under the presidency of Mr Poincaré, whose absence we regret so much today. May I remind you of the classification of the annual on the progress of mathematics, published by Mr Lampe, of the classification of the universally oriented Dewey decimal system, and of several others. But we will reach the ideal of a bibliography that uniformly satisfies the needs of both scholars and librarians in the whole world only by a uniform, universally approved classification.

Dear Assembly! If anywhere, then we have an important and grateful task of international communication at hand here. Besides, this task is already alleviated by the fact that two powerful and highly prestigious institutes have already turned their attention towards this problem: the Institut International de Bibliographie in Brussels and the Royal Society in London. The former recently held its second international conference. The international congress of mathematicians cannot and must not watch the work of these institutes idly and indifferently. It still has the opportunity to participate in this, and may I add that this participation will only be welcomed by both institutes. But even if the international congresses of mathematicians would want to proceed independently and create their own institute, which would not be particularly difficult, they would not, in principle, rival the two mentioned institutes for some time yet. A proof for this is given by the international Concilium bibliographicum, which has been thriving in Zurich for two years and which implements the mentioned ideals in zoology under the direction of Mr Field.

Dear attendees, I can abstain from dwelling further on this topic or even going into details, as Mr Eneström will give a talk on the latest mathematical-bibliographical developments in the section for history and bibliography. As I learned just recently, representatives of the Institut International de Bibliographie and of the Royal Society will also attend this session. We can therefore assume that a certain proposal concerning mathematical bibliography will emerge from this section, which would be put to you in the second main meeting.

Dear Assembly! I have come to the end of my presentation. As I have remarked already, it cannot claim to be complete in any way or direction. I simply wanted to show that alongside the great interest that the international meetings of mathematicians have in themselves, there also exist tasks that are worth a joint effort. The more firmly the ties that shall unite us from now on are established, the more such tasks will naturally present themselves over the course of time.

May the work, for which we lay the foundation here in Zurich today, be a worthy member in the series of great international creations! May it contribute alongside them to unite not only the scholars of all nations, but also the nations themselves for joint cultural endeavours!
5.       Closing Speech by Carl Friedrich Geiser.
Wednesday, 11 August 1897, Auditorium of the Eidgenössische Polytechnikum.

Dear attendees!

We have exhausted our agenda and no further items have been registered for consideration. Thus, there is nothing left for me to do but to close today's second general meeting and hence the official part of our congress on behalf of the committee appointed by you. Indeed, a few hours of merry sociability will still provide us with manifold occasions to amicably exchange ideas about the success of our work. However, please allow me to joyfully express the thought that is currently on all our minds already now: the possibility of uniting the mathematicians from many different countries for interesting and fruitful meetings as well as for lively personal contact has been displayed and thus the future of the international congresses of mathematicians is secured. And if, at the end of this lovely day, I call out a cordial farewell to you all on behalf of my colleagues in Zurich, then I may also assume to speak in accordance with the kind invitation of our peers from France when I add:

Auf Wiedersehen in Paris - See you in Paris!
6.       The Social Programme of the Congress.

Sunday 8 August 1897.

According to the programme, the reception committee, led by Professor Hurwitz, was busy at the station all Sunday to receive the incoming mathematicians, many of whom were fortunately accompanied by their spouses, to provide them with festival cards and to provide for the newcomers who requested apartments. Most, however, had ordered their apartments in advance.

In addition to the festival card with the corresponding six coupons - it also serves as the title image for this volume - each participant received a festival badge in Swiss colours, as well as a copy of the programme, the regulations, the resolutions and the illustrated guide published by the official transport commission through Zurich - all of this printed matter as requested either in German or French.

In the evening at 20.00 the official reception and greeting of the guests took place in the combined rehearsal halls of the Tonhalle. This very first evening showed that the suggestion to bring together mathematicians for an international meeting had gone down well and that the frequency of the congress would in any case not fall short of expectations. With a simple light meal, that cordial, friendly sociability soon developed, which gives the large scientific meetings such an interesting and such a sympathetic character.

Monday 9 August 1897.

At 13.00 the mathematicians and their spouses, who had also attended the discussions at the Annual General Meeting in great numbers, gathered for the banquet in the Pavilion of the Tonhalle. Professor Franel opened the round of toasts with a cheer for Switzerland. Government Councillor Ernst welcomed the guests on behalf of the Zurich authorities. A speech by Brioschi was received with special sympathy, who first expressed his thanks to the people of Zurich and then drew the attention of those present to the venerable appearance of Hermite, who unfortunately could not personally attend the congress. The assembly enthusiastically tuned in to the great mathematician and then, at the request of Mr Mittag-Leffler, decided to send the following sympathy telegram to Mr Hermite:
Mr Hermite
at Madame Legrand's
in Noisseville, Lorraine.

The members of the
1st International Congress of Mathematicians pray to the illustrious dean of the masters of analysis of our time, to accept the homage of their admiration and their deep respect.
Geiser.
In the meantime it was 4 o'clock and time for the steamboat. Under the sounds of music, that also played on board, the company was led on the saloon steamer Helvetia in a little over an hour's sailing to Rapperswyl, located at the opposite end of Lake Zurich, where it dissolved into informal groups. The sky, which at first seemed to be a bit rainy, had completely brightened up during the trip and even compensated for it later in the evening with unusually beautiful lighting effects. After the company had spent about two hours in the picturesque old town and had visited the promising Lindenhof with the castle that housed the Polish National Museum, the return journey began, on which the economic committee also had the opportunity to take action and to restore the mathematicians in need of rest with simple refreshments and Veltheimer and Regensberger wines from the Cellar of the City of Zurich.

Unfortunately, due to the strong wind, the illuminated gondola, which according to the programme was supposed to receive the steamship when it returned to Zurich, could not be built. As a result, the planned firework display was partially eliminated. After all, various villa owners had not missed the opportunity to show their sympathy to foreign guests by illuminating their villas. Other outstanding buildings, such as the Polytechnic, the physics building and the Neumünster church, also shone in Bengal light. And when the ship slowly approached the city at 21.00, shining greetings were also sent to the participants from the top of the Ütliberg mountain.

Tuesday 10 August 1897.

Needless to say a few words about the social life of the second day of the congress. The committee had deliberately chosen to avoid official festive events for Tuesday to allow participants some freedom of movement. A large part of the society came for lunch in the Tonhalle, others followed private invitations or otherwise arranged themselves as they please. For the afternoon, the ladies were invited to Ms Bleuler, President of the School Council. In the evening most of them met in the Tonhalle and in the Belvoirpark; Fireworks and illumination, originally planned for Monday but postponed due to the weather, marked the end of the second day of the congress.

Wednesday 11 August 1897.

From 13.30 to 14.00 several successive special trains led the mathematicians with their spouses to the level of the Uto, where at 14.30 the closing banquet in the renovated Hotel Ütliberg began. The first toast was proposed by Mr Picard, as the current president of the Société Mathématique de France, which, in accordance with the fifth resolution, had been entrusted with the preparation and organisation of the second International Congress of Mathematicians. Mr Picard made the following speech:
Ladies and gentlemen,

 It is with great regret that we are coming to the end of these three days of celebration. We will all have the best memory of the kind welcome we received in Zurich. We have already addressed warm thanks to the organisers of this Congress; it is from the bottom of our hearts that we renew them at the time of our departure, by associating in particular the name of our eminent president, Professor Geiser.

This morning's general assembly gave the French Mathematical Society the honour of choosing it to prepare for the 1900 Congress. Allow its president to thank it warmly. I cannot, in this capacity, make a better wish, than to wish the French Mathematical Society to succeed as well as the mathematicians of Zurich in a task which is very difficult.

The success of our first meeting is a guarantee of the future of the institution that has just been founded. It testifies to the cordiality which is quickly established between unselfish people having no other concern than the search for the truth. It will also be one of the results of these congresses to see more eclecticism spread between the various scientific methods. Fortunately, we do not all have the same tendencies of mind. Some, for example, scouts of science, prefer unexplored regions and lay the groundwork for the future; others prefer studies which can be pushed to their last term. The first blow up the rocks where the others will later trace the main road. This one will like to see things in a geometric form, while this one will prefer algebraic formulas. We also have our philosophical mathematicians, and this end of the century sees, as in other ages, mathematics in great coquetry with philosophy. This is for the best, provided, however, that this philosophy is very tolerant and that it does not stifle the spirit of invention.

Let us beware of being exclusive, and have the same sympathy for all conscientious workers. Let us also remember that in mathematics, as in ladies' dress, fashion is not without exerting a certain influence.

I drink, ladies and gentlemen, to the cordiality between mathematicians of all countries and to the increasingly deep and fruitful union between the different tendencies of the mathematical spirit.
The banquet ended at 16.00. The vast majority of members remained together on the promising heights until late in the evening. The weather was incomparable; no cloud spoilt the brilliant blue of the sky. In honour of the mathematicians, the snowy mountains had adorned themselves with their most beautiful ermine, Säntis, Glärnisch and Tödi, the Uri, Engelberger and Bernese Oberland Alps, from Finsteraarhorn to Diablerets, competed in an effort to increase the shine of the day. The finale of the three-day mathematical symphony should end in full, powerful chords.


JOC/EFR January 2020 School of Mathematics and Statistics
University of St Andrews, Scotland
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