The Swiss Mathematical Society

Founded in 1910

The Swiss Mathematical Society coming from a country with several official languages, is also known both as the Schweizerische Mathematische Gesellschaft and the Société Mathématique Suisse. It was founded on 4 September 1910 as a section of the Swiss Academy of Natural Sciences.

The three mathematicians most involved in the founding of the Society were: Rudolf Fueter, who had been appointed as professor of mathematics at the University of Basel in 1908; H Fehr, who was at the University of Geneva; and Marcel Grossmann, who had been appointed as professor of descriptive geometry at the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule in Zurich in 1907.

One reason that a need was felt for the Swiss Mathematical Society was through the efforts to published the complete works of Euler. This project had been suggested at the time of the International Congress of Mathematicians which took place in Zurich in 1897. The proposal had been made in 1883 (on the centenary of Euler's death) by Ferdinand Rudio, who was at that time a lecturer in mathematics at the Eidgenössisches Polytechnikum (later called the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule) in Zurich, and repeated by him at the Congress fourteen years later.

Karl Geiser, from Zurich, was the President of the 1897 Zurich Congress and in 1907 he joined Rudio and others in approaching the Swiss Academy of Natural Sciences with the proposal to publish Euler's complete works. After the "Euler Commission" was set up, led by Rudio, it was found by those involved that they were hampered in their work by the lack of a national Swiss Mathematical Society. This, and other factors, led to the foundation of the Society in 1910 to bring pure mathematics into the foreground and to support its national and international promotion.

Since Rudolf Fueter, H Fehr, and Marcel Grossmann were three of the main initiators of the idea of the Society, it was fitting that these three should become the first three Presidents of the Society. Many mathematical societies are founded to support publication of a journal, but this was not so of the Swiss Mathematical Society. However, after some years, the need for a journal was felt. A Latin title was chosen because Switzerland had no national language and Commentarii Mathematici Helvetici was formally approved at a meeting of the Society on 20 May 1928. Fueter was appointed as the first editor but the its aim was not at first to be international, rather (see [1]):-
... to give as complete a picture as possible of what our country has to offer in the way of mathematics.
The Swiss Mathematical Society played a major role in organising the International Congress of Mathematicians which took place in Zurich in 1932. Fueter was President of the Congress. The Society had been founded, at least in part, because of ongoing work on Euler's Complete Works. In 1930 the Society set up a Committee to look after the archive of material left by Steiner and in 1937 the same committee was also given the responsibility for the archive left by Schläfli. The Committee was given the task of (see [1]):-
... sifting through the legacies of the two great Swiss mathematicians Steiner and Schläfli and making their work accessible.
In 1975 the Swiss Mathematical Society took over responsibility for publishing Elemente der Mathematik which had existed since 1946. The Society also went on the organise a third International Congress of Mathematicians which took place in Zurich in 1994.

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References (show)

  1. U Stammbach, Swiss Mathematical Society, European Mathematical Society Newsletter 33 (September, 1999), 18-20.

Last Updated August 2004