Elwin Bruno Christoffel Biography, German Mathematician Contributions to Science


Who was Elwin Bruno Christoffel? Information on German mathematician Elwin Bruno Christoffel biography, life story, works and contributions to science.

Elwin Bruno Christoffel

Elwin Bruno Christoffel (Source: wikipedia.org)

Elwin Bruno Christoffel; (1829-1900), German mathematician, who introduced covariant differentiation in the study of higher dimensional geometry. He was born in Montjoie (now Monschau), near the Belgian border, on Nov. 10, 1829. Christoffel studied at the University of Berlin and was strongly influenced by Dirichlet and the works of Riemann. He graduated from Berlin in 1856. In 1862, Christoffel succeeded Dedekind as professor at the Polytechnicum in Zurich and then helped to establish a department of mathematics at the University of Strasbourg when it reopened in 1872 as a German university following the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871.


Christoffel published memoirs on the theory of functions, where the important Schwartz-Christoffel formula bears his name, and he completed a long paper on the theta function only a few weeks before his death at Strasbourg on March 15, 1900. In a paper of 1869 on quadratic differential forms he introduced the expression, later called covariant differentiation by Ricci, that became basic to the study of the differential calculus of higher dimensional surfaces. The ideas of this paper have important applications in tensor analysis, where they lead to the “Riemann-Christoffel curvature tensor,” which is well known in general relativity theory.

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