Constantin Carathéodory

Constantin Carathéodory
Constantin Carathéodory

Constantin Carathéodory
Born 13 September 1873(1873-09-13)
Berlin, Germany
Died 2 February 1950(1950-02-02) (aged 76)
Munich, Germany
Nationality Greek
Fields Mathematics
Institutions University of Munich
Ionian University of Smyrna
Alma mater University of Berlin
University of Göttingen
Doctoral advisor Hermann Minkowski
Doctoral students Paul Finsler
Hans Rademacher
Georg Aumann
Hermann Boerner
Ernst Peschl
Hans Rügemer
Wladimir Seidel
Known for Carathéodory theorems
Carathéodory conjecture

Constantin Carathéodory (or Constantine Karatheodori) (Greek: Κωνσταντίνος Καραθεοδωρή) (13 September 1873 – 2 February 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.



A young Constantin Caratheodory in the late 19th Century

Constantin Carathéodory was born in Berlin to Greek parents and grew up in Brussels, where his father served as the Ottoman ambassador to Belgium. The Carathéodory family, originally from Bosnochori or Vyssa, was well established and respected in Constantinople, and its members held many important governmental positions.

The Carathéodory family spent 1874-75 in Constantinople, where Constantin's paternal grandfather lived, while Stephanos was on leave. Then in 1875 they went to Brussels when Stephanos was appointed there as Ottoman Ambassador. In Brussels, Constantin's younger sister Julia was born. The year 1895 was a tragic one for the family since Constantin's paternal grandfather died in that year, but much more tragically, Constantin's mother Despina died of pneumonia in Cannes. Constantin's maternal grandmother took on the task of bringing up Constantin and Julia in his father's home in Belgium. They employed a German maid who taught the children to speak German. Constantin was already bilingual in French and Greek by this time.

Constantin began his formal schooling at a private school in Vanderstock in 1881. He left after two years and then spent time with his father on a visit to Berlin, and also spent the winters of 1883-84 and 1884-85 on the Italian Riviera. Back in Brussels in 1885 he attended a grammar school for a year where he first began to become interested in mathematics. In 1886 he entered the high school Athénée Royal d'Ixelles and studied there until his graduation in 1891. Twice during his time at this school Constantin won a prize as the best mathematics student in Belgium.

Constantin Caratheodory (left) pictured sitting with his parents.

At this stage Carathéodory began training as a military engineer. He attended the École Militaire de Belgique from October 1891 to May 1895 and he also studied at the École d'Application from 1893 to 1896. In 1897 a war broke out between Turkey and Greece. This put Carathéodory in a difficult position since he sided with the Greeks, yet his father served the government of the Ottoman Empire. Since he was a trained engineer he was offered a job in the British colonial service. This job took him to Egypt where he worked on the construction of the Assiut dam until April 1900. During periods when construction work had to stop due to floods, he studied mathematics from some textbooks he had with him, such as Jordan's Cours d'Analyse and Salmon's text on the analytic geometry of conic sections. He also visited the Cheops pyramid and made measurements which he wrote up and published in 1901. He also published a book on Egypt in the same year which contained a wealth of information on the history and geography of the country.

Studies and University Career

Carathéodory studied engineering in Belgium at the Royal Military Academy, where he was considered a charismatic and brilliant student.

University Career:

1900 Studies at University of Berlin. 1902 Completed graduation at University of Göttingen (1904 Ph.D, 1905 Habilitation) 1908 Dozent at Bonn 1909 Ordinary Professor at Hannover Technical High School. 1910 Ordinary Professor at Breslau Technical High School. 1913 Professor following Klein at University of Göttingen. 1919 Professor at University of Berlin 1919 Elected to Prussian Academy of Science. 1920 University Dean at Ionian University of Smyrna (later, University of the Aegean). 1922 Professor at University of Athens. 1922 Professor at Athens Polytechnic. 1924 Professor following Lindeman at University of Munich. 1938 Retirement from Professorship. Continued working from Bavarian Academy of Science

Doctoral students: Carathéodory had about 20 doctoral students among these being Hans Rademacher, known for his work on analysis and number theory, and Paul Finsler known for his creation of Finsler space.

Academic contacts in Germany: Carathéodory's contacts in Germany were many and included such famous names as: Minkowski, Hilbert, Klein, Einstein, Schwarz, Fejér. During the difficult period of World War II his close associates at the Bavarian Academy of Sciences were Perron and Tietze.

Academic contacts in Greece: While in Germany Carathéodory retained numerous links with the Greek academic world about which detailed information may be found in Georgiadou's book. He was directly involved with the reorganization of Greek universities. An especially close friend and colleague in Athens was Nicolaous Kritikos who had attended his lectures at Gŏttingen, later going with him to Smyrna, then becoming professor at Athens Polytechnic. With Carathéodory he helped the famous topologist Christos Papakyriakopoulos take a doctorate in topology at Athens University in 1943 under very difficult circumstances. While teaching in Athens University Carathéodory had as undergraduate student Evangelos Stamatis who subsequently achieved considerable distinction as a scholar of ancient Greek mathematical classics.[1]


Constantin Caratheodory (left) with Hungarian mathematician Lipót Fejér (1880-1959) (standing to the right)

Calculus of Variations: In his doctoral dissertation Carathéodory originated his method based on the use of the Hamilton-Jacobi equation to construct a field of extremals. The ideas are closely related to light propagation in optics. The method became known as the royal road to the calculus of variations.[2] More recently the same idea has been taken into the theory of optimal control.[3] The method can also be extended to multiple integrals.

Real Analysis: He proved an existence theorem for the solution to ordinary differential equations under mild regularity conditions.

Theory of measure: He is credited with the Carathéodory extension theorem which is fundamental to modern set theory. Later Carathéodory extended the theory from sets to Boolean algebras.

Theory of functions of a complex variable: He greatly extended the theory of conformal transformation[4] proving his theorem about the extension of conformal mapping to the boundary of Jordan domains. In studying boundary correspondence he originated the theory of prime ends.

Thermodynamics: In 1909, Carathéodory published a pioneering work "Investigations on the Foundations of Thermodynamics"[5] in which he formulated the Laws of Thermodynamics axiomatically. It has been said that he was using only mechanical concepts and the theory of Pfaff's differential forms. But in reality he also relied heavily on the concept of an adiabatic process. The physical meaning of the term adiabatic rests on the concepts of heat and temperature. Thus, in Bailyn's survey of thermodynamics, Carathéodory's approach is called "mechanical", as distinct from "thermodynamic".[6] Carathéodory's "first axiomatically rigid foundation of thermodynamics" was acclaimed by Max Planck[citation needed] and Max Born.[7] In his theory he simplified the basic concepts, for instance heat is not an essential concept but a derived one. He formulated the axiomatic principle of irreversibility in thermodynamics stating that inaccessibility of states is related to the existence of entropy, where temperature is the integration function. The Second Law of Thermodynamics was expressed via the following axiom: "In the neighbourhood of any initial state, there are states which cannot be approached arbitrarily close through adiabatic changes of state." In this connexion he coined the term adiabatic accessibility.[8]

Optics: Carathéodory's work in optics is closely related to his method in the calculus of variations. In 1926[9] he gave a strict and general proof, that no system of lenses and mirrors can avoid aberration, except for the trivial case of plane mirrors. In his later work he gave the theory of the Schmidt telescope.

Historical: During the Second World War Carathéodory edited two volumes of Euler's Complete Works dealing with the Calculus of Variations which were submitted for publication in 1946.[10]

A conjecture: He is credited with the authorship of the Carathéodory conjecture claiming that a closed convex surface admits at least two umbilic points. As of 2007, this conjecture remained unproven despite having attracted a large amount of research.

See also

The Smyrna years

File:Carathéodory Cousins.JPG
Constantin Caratheodory pictured (third from the left, on the bottom row) with his Cousins.

At the invitation of the Greek Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos he submitted a plan on 20 October 1919 for the creation of a new University at Smyrna in Asia Minor, to be named Ionian University. In 1920 Carathéodory was appointed Dean of the University and took a major part in establishing the institution, touring Europe to buy books and equipment. The university however never actually admitted students due to the War in Asia Minor which ended in the Great Fire of Smyrna. Carathéodory managed to save books from the library and was only rescued at the last moment by a journalist who took him by rowing boat to the battleship Naxos which was standing by. The present day University of the Aegean claims to be a continuation of Carathéodory's original plan.[11]

Carathéodory brought to Athens some of the university library and stayed in Athens, teaching at the university and technical school until 1924.

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.

Linguistic talent

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.

Much more than that, Carathéodory was a treasured conversation partner for his fellow professors in the Munich Department of Philosophy. The well-respected, German philologist, professor of ancient languages Kurt von Fritz praised Carathéodory, saying that from him one could learn an endless amount about the old and new Greece, the old Greek language, and Hellenic mathematics. Fritz had an uncountable number of philosophical discussions with Carathéodory. Deep in his heart, Carathéodory felt himself Greek above all. The Greek language was spoken exclusively in Carathéodory's house – his son Stephanos and daughter Despina went to a German high school, but they obtained daily additional instruction in Greek language and culture from a Greek priest. At home, they were not allowed to speak any other language.


Constantin Caratheodory at a mature age.

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 21 March 2009 the museum "Karatheodoris"(Καραθεοδωρής) opened its gates to the public, in Komotini.,[12][13][14]

The museum of Carathéodory at Komotini.

The coordinator of the Museum, Athanasios Lipordezis (Αθανάσιος Λιπορδέζης), noted that the museum gave home to original manuscripts of the mathematician of about 10,000 pages including correspondence of Carathéodory with the German mathematician Arthur Rozenthal for the algebraization of measure. Also visitors can view at the showcases the books " Gesammelte Mathematische Schriften Band 1,2,3,4 ", "Mass und Ihre Algebraiserung", " Reelle Functionen Band 1", " Zahlen/Punktionen Funktionen " and many more. Handwritten letters of C.Carathéodory to Albert Einstein, Hellmuth Kneser and photographs of the Carathéodory family are on display.

The effort to furnish the museum with more exhibits is continuous.[15][16][17]

Publications of Carathéodory

A complete list of Carathéodory's publications can be found in his Collected Works (Ges. Math. Schr.). Notable publications are:

  • Über die diskontinuierlichen Lösungen in der Variationsrechung. Diss. Göttingen Univ. 1904; Ges. Math. Schr. I 3-79.
  • Über die starken Maxima und Minima bei einfachen Integralen. Habilitationschrift Göttingen 1905; Math. Annalen 62 1906 449-503; Ges. Math. Schr. I 80-142.
  • Untersuchungen über die Grundlagen der Thermodynamik, Math. Ann. 67 (1909) pp. 355–386; Ges. Math. Schr. II 131-166.
  • Über das lineare Mass von Punktmengen - eine Verallgemeinerung des Längenbegriffs., Gött. Nachr. (1914) 404-406; Ges. Math. Schr. IV 249-275.
  • Elementarer Beweis für den Fundamentalsatz der konformen Abbildungen. Schwarzsche Festschrift, Berlin 1914; Ges. Math. Schr.IV 249-275.
  • Zur Axiomatic der speziellen Relativitätstheorie. Sitzb. Preuss. Akad. Wiss. (1923) 12-27; Ges. Math. Schr. II 353-373.
  • Variationsrechnung in Frank P. & von Mises (eds): Die Differential= und Integralgleichungen der Mechanik und Physik, Braunschweig 1930 (Vieweg); New York 1961 (Dover) 227-279; Ges. Math. Schr. I 312-370.
  • Entwurf für eine Algebraisierung des Integralbegriffs, Sitzber. Bayer. Akad. Wiss. (1938) 27-69; Ges. Math. Schr. IV 302-342.

Books by Carathéodory

Vorlesungen über reelle Funktionen. (Lectures on Real Functions) Leipzig-Berlin 1918, 1927,1939 (Teubner); rpr. New York 1948; 3rd corrected ed. 1968 (Chelsea)

Conformal Representation, Cambridge 1932 (Cambridge Tracts in Mathematics and Physics)

Geometrische Optik, Berlin, 1937

Elementare Theorie des Spiegelteleskops von B. Schmidt (Elementary Theory of B. Schmidt's Reflecting Telescope), Leipzig Teubner, 1940 36 pp.; Ges. math. Schr. II 234-279

Functionentheorie I, II, Basel 1950, 1961 (Birkhäuser). English translation: Theory of Functions of a Complex Variable, 2 vols, New York, Chelsea Publishing Company, 1954

Mass und Integral und Ihre Algebraisierung, Basel 1956. English translation, Measure and Integral and their Algebraisation, New York, Chelsea Publishing Company, 1963

Variationsrechnung und partielle Differentialgleichungen erster Ordnung, Leipzig, 1935. English translation, Calculus of Variations and Partial Differential Equations of the First Order, New York, Chelsea Publishing Company, 1965.

Gesammelte Mathematische Schriften München 1954-7 (Beck) I-V.

All of Carathéodory's books are written in a beautiful and lucid style; they have been studied by generations of mathematicians, and still being studied to great benefit. Carathéodory's books are unusual in the extent to which geometry is used in the exposition.


  1. ^ J P Christianidis & N Kastanis: In memoriam Evangelos S Stamatis (1898-1990) Historia Mathematica 19 (1992) 99-105
  2. ^ H. Boerner, Carathéodory und die Variationsrechnung, in A Panayotopolos (ed.), Proceedings of C. Carathéodory International Symposium, September 1973, Athens (Athens, 1974), 80-90.
  3. ^ Bellman for his Dynamic programming in its continuous-time form used Carathéodory's work in the form of the Hamilton-Jacobi-Bellman equation. Kálmán also explicitly used Carathéodory's formulation in his initial papers on optimal control. See e.g. R. E. Kalman: Contributions to the theory of optimal control. Boletin de la Sociedad Matematica Mexicana 1960
  4. ^ A. Shields: Carathéodory and Conformal Mapping Math. Intelligencer vol.10(1), 1988
  5. ^ Untersuchungen ueber die Grundlagen der Thermodynamik, Math. Ann., 67 (1909) p. 355-386
  6. ^ Bailyn, M. (1994). A Survey of Thermodynamics, American Institute of Physics, Woodbury NY, ISBN 0-88318-797-3.
  7. ^ Max Born: The Born-Einstein Letters, MacMillan 1971
  8. ^ adiabatic accessibility = adiabatische Erreichbarkeit; see also Elliott H. Lieb, Jakob Yngvason: The Physics and Mathematics of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, Phys. Rep. 310, 1-96 (1999) and Elliott H. Lieb, (editors: B. Nachtergaele, J.P. Solovej, J. Yngvason): Statistical Mechanics: Selecta of Elliott H. Lieb, 2005, ISBN 978-3-540-22297-2
  9. ^ Über den Zusammenhang der Theorie der absoluten optischen Instrumente mit einem Satz der Variationsrechnung, Münchener Sitzb. Math. -naturw Abteilung 1926 1-18; Ges. Math. Schr. II 181-197.
  10. ^ Euler Opera Omnia, Series 1 (a) vol.24: Methodus inveniendi lineas curvas maximi minimive gaudentes sive solutio problematis isoperimetrici latissimo sensu accepti. Lausanne & Geneva 1744 (M. Bousquet) ed. C. Carathéodory Zürich 1952 (Fuesli). (b) vol.25 Commentationes analyticae ad calculum variationum pertinentes. ed C. Carathéodory Zürich 1952 (Fuesli).
  11. ^ "University of the Aegean". University of the Aegean. Archived from the original on 2006-10-06. Retrieved 2006-10-07. 
  12. ^ (Greek)"Caratheodory Museum Opening". Friends of C.Caratheodory. 
  13. ^ "Caratheodory Museum Opens". Hellenic Republic Embassy at Australia, Press and Communication Office. 
  14. ^ "Caratheodory Museum enriched with new exhibits". Athens News Agency. 
  15. ^ (Greek)"The museum of C.Carathéodory at Komotini". Eleftherotipia, major Greek newspaper.,dt=23.03.2009,id=53237924. 
  16. ^ (Greek)"Carathéodory Museum: attractor". Kathimerini, major Greek newspaper. 
  17. ^ (Greek)"The museum of Carathéodory opened its gates to the public". Macedonia, Greek major newspaper. 



  1. Maria Georgiadou, Constantin Carathéodory: Mathematics and Politics in Turbulent Times, Berlin-Heidelberg:Springer Verlag, 2004. ISBN 3-540-44258-8 MAA Book review
  2. Themistocles M. Rassias (editor) (1991) Constantin Caratheodory: An International Tribute, Teaneck, NJ: World Scientific Publishing Co., ISBN 981-02-0544-9 (set)
  3. Nicolaos K. Artemiadis; translated by Nikolaos E. Sofronidis [2000](2004), History of Mathematics: From a Mathematician's Vantage Point, Rhode Island, USA: American Mathematical Society, pp. 270–4, 281, ISBN 0-8218-3403-7
  4. Constantin Carathéodory in International Congress at Vissa-Orestiada, Greece, 1-4 September 2000. Proceedings: T Vougiouklis (ed.), Hadronic Press, Palm Harbor FL 2001.

Biographical Articles

  1. C. Carathéodory, Autobiographische Notizen, (In German) Wiener Akad. Wiss. 1954-57, vol.V, pp. 389–408. Reprinted in Carathéodory's Collected Writings vol.V. English translation in A. Shields, Carathéodory and conformal mapping, The Mathematical Intelligencer 10 (1) (1988), 18-22.
  2. O. Perron, Obituary: Constantin Carathéodory, Jahresberichte der Deutschen Mathematiker Vereinigung 55 (1952), 39-51.
  3. N. Sakellariou, Obituary: Constantin Carathéodory (Greek), Bull. Soc. Math. Grèce 26 (1952), 1-13.
  4. H Tietze, Obituary: Constantin Carathéodory, Arch. Math. 2 (1950), 241-245.
  5. H. Behnke, Carathéodorys Leben und Wirken, in A. Panayotopolos (ed.), Proceedings of C .Carathéodory International Symposium, September 1973, Athens (Athens, 1974), 17-33.
  6. Bulirsch R., Hardt M., (2000): Constantin Carathéodory: Life and Work, International Congress: "Constantin Carathéodory", 1–4 September 2000, Vissa, Orestiada, Greece

Encyclopaedias — reference

  1. Chambers Biographical Dictionary (1997), Constantine Carathéodory, 6th ed., Edinburgh: Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd, pp 270–1, ISBN 0-550-10051-2, * Also available online.
  2. The New Encyclopædia Britannica (1992), Constantine Carathéodory, 15th ed., vol. 2, USA: The University of Chicago, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., pp 842, ISBN 0-85229-553-7 * New edition Online entry
  3. H Boerner, Biography of Carathéodory in Dictionary of Scientific Biography (New York 1970-1990).


  1. International Conference: C. Carathéodory Symposium, Athens, Greece September 1973. Proceedings edited by A. Panayiotopoulos (Greek Mathematical Society) 1975.
  2. Conference on Advances in Convex Analysis and Global Optimization (Honoring the memory of C. Carathéodory) June 5–9, 2000, Pythagorion, Samos, Greece.
  3. International Congress: Carathéodory in his ... origins, September 1–4, 2000, Vissa Orestiada, Greece. Proceedings edited by Thomas Vougiouklis (Democritus University of Thrace), Hadronic Press FL USA, 2001. ISBN 1-57485-053-9.

External links

  1. O'Connor, John J.; Robertson, Edmund F., "Constantin Carathéodory", MacTutor History of Mathematics archive, University of St Andrews, .
  2. (Greek) Web site dedicated to Carathéodory
  3. Constantin Carathéodory at the Mathematics Genealogy Project.

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

См. также в других словарях:

  • Constantin Caratheodory — Constantin Carathéodory (ca. 1920) Constantin Carathéodory (griechisch Κωνσταντίνος Καραθεοδωρή Konstantínos Karatheodorí; * 13. September 1873 in Berlin; † 2. Februar 1950 in München) war ein griechischer Mathematiker (in der Literatur findet …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Constantin Carathéodory — (ca. 1920) Constantin Carathéodory (griechisch Κωνσταντίνος Καραθεοδωρή Konstantínos Karatheodorí; * 13. September 1873 in Berlin; † 2. Februar 1950 in München; in der Literatur findet sich der Name auch …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Constantin Carathéodory — (né le 13 septembre 1873 à Berlin et mort le 2 février 1950 à Munich) est un mathématicien grec auteur d importants travaux en théorie des …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Constantin Caratheodory — Constantin Carathéodory Constantin Carathéodory Constantin Carathéodory (Grec: Κωνσταντίνος Καραθεοδωρή) (13 septembre 1873 – 2 février 1950 à Munich) était un mathématicien grec auteur d importants travaux en théorie des fonctions à variabl …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Caratheodory — Constantin Carathéodory (ca. 1920) Constantin Carathéodory (griechisch Κωνσταντίνος Καραθεοδωρή Konstantínos Karatheodorí; * 13. September 1873 in Berlin; † 2. Februar 1950 in München) war ein griechischer Mathematiker (in der Literatur findet …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Carathéodory's criterion — is a result in measure theory that was formulated by Greek mathematician Constantin Carathéodory. Its statement is as follows: Let lambda^* denote the Lebesgue outer measure on mathbb{R}^n, and let Esubseteqmathbb{R}^n. Then E is Lebesgue… …   Wikipedia

  • Carathéodory — ist der Familienname folgender Personen: Constantin Carathéodory (1873–1950), griechischer Mathematiker Alexander Carathéodory Pascha (1833–1906), osmanischer Diplomat Diese Seite ist eine Begriffsklärung zur Unterscheid …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Caratheodory Pascha — Alexander Carathéodory Pascha ( * 1833; † 1906) war ein osmanischer Diplomat griechischer Abstammung (in der Literatur finden sich verschiedene Schreibweisen des Namens: Karatheodori, Caratheodory, Carathéodori). Carathéodory Pascha war Phanariot …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Carathéodory's theorem — In mathematics, Carathéodory s theorem may refer to one of a number of results of Constantin Carathéodory:* Carathéodory s theorem (convex hull) about the convex hulls of sets in Euclidean space *Carathéodory s theorem (measure theory) about… …   Wikipedia

  • Carathéodory metric — In mathematics, the Carathéodory metric is a metric defined on the open unit ball of a complex Banach space that has many similar properties to the Poincaré metric of hyperbolic geometry. It is named after the Greek mathematician Constantin… …   Wikipedia

Поделиться ссылкой на выделенное

Прямая ссылка:
Нажмите правой клавишей мыши и выберите «Копировать ссылку»