The Princeton Math Scene in the 30's and 40's


While trying to uncover the connection between Bianchi's 1898 work on homogeneous 3-spaces and their introduction into relativistic cosmology at the end of the 1940's by Gödel and Taub, a very interesting story began to emerge about the Princeton mathematics community in which this developed, starting with the emergence of the Mathematics Department of Princeton University as a world class center for mathematics in the first 3 decades of the century which then spawned the Institute for Advanced Studies which spent 6 years sharing Fine Hall at the University while its own facilities were planned and constructed in the 1930's.

The irony of my recent discoveries with the help of the Princeton University Fine Hall Library staff was that I myself passed through the Princeton University Math-Physics (and relativity) scene as an undergraduate in the early 1970s and spent considerable time with Abe Taub in graduate school in the late 1970s at UC Berkeley before his retirement and I saw him and his wife Cece irregularly ever since. Abe had been right in the center of this period of interaction between mathematicians and relativists, but I never knew of any of this history, which even as recently as a few years ago I could have learned directly from him.

Abe passed away August 9, 1999 after a long illness at age 88.

Robert Jantzen, Dept of Mathematical Sciences, Villanova University, 26-aug-1999