Saturday, October 8, 2011

A term in mathematics: Meissner body named after Swiss mathematician Ernst Meissner

A Meissner body is a three-dimensional body of constant width, which is generated by rotating the Reuleaux triangle around its axis of symmetry. Bernd Kawohl and Christof Weber recently presented an excellent account on the history and recent developments of  “Meissner's Mysterious Bodies” [1]. They show drawings and plaster models of Meissner bodies and refer to mathematical models produced by the publisher Martin Schilling in 1911, of which Ernst Meissner described said body that became named after him.

Ernst Meissner (also spelled Meißner) was born on September 1, 1883, in Zofingen and died on March 17, 1939 in Zollikon, Switzerland [1,3]. He studied mathematics and physics at the Swiss Polytechnic (Polytechnikum Zürich), later to become the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich. For two semesters he studied with Klein, Hilbert and Minkowski at the University of Göttingen, Germany, and qualified as a professor (Habilitation) in 1909, after returning to the ETH. Kawohl and Weber describe Meissner's achievements as extraordinarily diverse (see “curriculum vitae of Ernst Meissner” in Appendix of [1]). Meissner's publications cover fields in pure and applied mathematics (number theory, algebra, geometry, Fourier analysis) as well as mechanics (geophysics, seismology, theory of oscillations). 

Keywords: geometry, spheroforms, history

References and more to explore
[1] Bernd Kawohl and Christof Weber: Meissner's Mysterious Bodies. Mathematical Intelligencer Fall 2011, 33 (3), 94-101. 
DOI: 10.1007/s00283-011-9239-y, PDF:
[2] Models: and
[3] Historisches Lexikon der Schweiz - Meissner, Ernst:

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