Como saben, en estos días he estado activo estudiando matemáticas, topología, álgebra, teoría de números e historia de las matemáticas en general. Uno de los conceptos que siempre encuentro en topología son los espacios de Hausdorff. Laurence Young ha escrito un muy interesante libro sobre sus recuerdos y contactos con matemáticos, en su larga vida (1905-2000). El libro es "Mathematicians and their times" y está escrito con un estilo muy particular de Young, que va pasando de un tema a otro con cierto hilo, sembrado de anécdotas e historias.
Leo ahí, en página 300, algo que no conocía: el final trágico de Felix Hausdorff en un tiempo estúpido, en el medio del nazismo de la segunda guerra:
If you study modern mathematics, you will hear of Hausdorff spaces, and perhaps of the Hausdorff-Young inequalities in Fourier series. The spaces were actually introduced in a famous Hilbert footnote, and Hausdorff's part of the inequalities was that of a professional, rather than a pioneer. But he was a great man, and his 1914 book on Set Theory was a masterpiece compared with the previous survey by Schoenfliess. Hausdorff was born in Breslau; his school and early student years were at Leipzig ; he went on to Freiburg and to his doctorate in Berlin in 1891; he married in 1899. He was musical and almost chose music rather than mathematics; he also had a gift for writing, and published verses and a satiric play under a pseudonym -- his sarcasm was later dreaded whenever he was an examiner. Such details I have at second hand: I never met him. He returned to Leipzig in 1902 as associate, declined that position in Goettingen, accepted it in Bonn in 1910, and ended up in 1913 with a professorship at Greisswald, from which he was forcibly retired in 1935. Greisswald was not the greatest university on the world, but Hausdorff was well regarded, and when in World War II the Swiss Government officially asked for permission for him to come to Switzerland, they were assured that he was in no danger. A fortnight later, an informer denounced him. Now nothing could save him. Little places like Greisswald cannot fight the machinery of a State, clamouring for one Jew the less, one fewer aristocrat of intellect, one less elitist. All that could be done was to have him sent to the resienstadt, a place for "better" Jews, a Czech town that had been cleared of its inhabitants. When one Jew was taken there, another was removed. There Hausdorff and his wife committed suicide. It was doubtless regretted, but what is one Jew the less, even if he is a better Jew? What can a mathematician say to such people?
Más adelante, Young escribe:
For a mathematician or a scientist, for anyone who feels a great drive to progress and to evolve,
the freedom that matters lies in the evolution from an ape to something better than a man: this freedom is set back by the loss of a pioneer, whose crime is to have arisen momentarily above a general absurdity.
"¿Qué puede decir un matemático a ese tipo de gente?" Lamentable que la "general absurdity" cada tanto vuelva en la historia humana.
Angel "Java" Lopez