Menso Folkerts

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Menso Folkerts (born June 22, 1943 in Eschwege ) is a German science and mathematics historian.

Menso Folkerts (left) with Jens Høyrup (2013)


Fabricius monument in front of the Warnfried Church (Osteel)

During the II. World War in Hesse was born, spent Folkerts his youth in the East Frisian Osteel where 1611 David and Johann Fabricius the sunspots had discovered (→  #Schaffen ). From 1962 to 1967 he studied classical philology , mathematics and historical auxiliary sciences at the University of Göttingen . With Jürgen Mau he got to know Greek mathematical texts, and with Hans Goetting he acquired palaeographic knowledge. Folkerts' dissertation was a critical edition of a geometry compiled in the 11th century and attributed to Boethius ("Geometry II" to distinguish it from a similar text from the 8th century), which contains translations of parts of the elements of Euclid . The experts were Karl Deichgräber , Will Richter and Goetting. Helmuth Gericke , who held the chair for the history of natural sciences at the University of Munich , provided a supplementary report . Joseph Ehrenfried Hofmann gave the work in the Boethius series . Texts and treatises of the exact sciences (which Folkerts later adopted ). In 1968 he passed the state examination for teaching at secondary schools in Göttingen .

From 1969 to 1976 Folkerts was a research assistant or assistant professor at the newly founded chair for the history of exact sciences and technology at the Technical University of Berlin , which was filled with Christoph J. Scriba , where he completed his habilitation in 1973/74 . From 1976 to 1980 he was C3 professor for mathematics with a focus on professional practice and the history of mathematics at the University of Oldenburg . From 1980 until his retirement (2008) he was C4 professor for the history of natural sciences at the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich and head of the institute of the same name.


Folkerts' scientific work spans the history of mathematics from ancient times to modern times .

The focus of his research is on the mathematical sciences in the Middle Ages and in the early modern period . The Latin texts of which he presented critical editions include a collection of exercises from the time of Charlemagne , a widespread treatment of Euclid's elements from the 12th century, the arithmetic of al-Ḫwārizmī ( al-Chwarizmi ) on arithmetic with the Indian-Arabic numerals ( Arabic numerals ) and the mathematical writings of Nikolaus von Kues .

Folkerts also worked on Gerbert von Aurillac's abacus , which had Indo-Arabic numerals on the stones , and on rithmomachy . Other publications deal with Johannes Regiomontanus and the development of algebra in the 15th and 16th centuries. Folkerts discovered a previously unknown method by Jost Bürgi to calculate sine values simply by doubling and adding . He also studied the texts from the 15th to 17th centuries on determining the volume of barrels ( visor art ). Folkerts has examined the life and work of the astronomers David and Johann Fabricius .

Carl Friedrich Gauss

Further work deals with Carl Friedrich Gauß and his scientific environment. Folkerts has presented Gauß's activities as a professor at Göttingen University, including his attitude towards the Göttingen Seven , on the basis of detailed source studies . The Gauss portal of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen , which lists all known letters from and to Gauss ( Gauss letter database ), is based on his research . Folkerts has rediscovered the only complete catalog from Gauss' library in Natchitoches, Louisiana, USA. Other works by Folkerts deal with mathematicians in the Gauß environment who come from Folkerts' East Frisian homeland: Enne Heeren Dirksen , Fooke Hoissen Müller , Jabbo Oltmanns , Johann Ludwig Tiarks .

Folkerts also contributed to Heinrich Heine research. He found out that Heine's last friend, Elise Krinitz , who he called “Mouche”, by no means came from a manorial background, as was previously assumed, but grew up as an adopted child in Fooke Hoissen Müller's other relatives.

Publications (selection)


Critical Editions

Essays on the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Age

  • Early depictions of Gerbert's abacus . In: Raffaella Franci, Paolo Pagli, Laura Toti Rigatelli (eds.): Itinera mathematica. Studi in onore di Gino Arrighi per il suo 90 ° compleanno . Centro studi sulla matematica medioevale, University of Siena , Siena 1996, OCLC 1109259302 , p. 23-43 .
  • "Rithmomachia", a Mathematical Game from the Middle Ages . In: Essays on Early Medieval Mathematics. The Latin Tradition. (=  Variorum Collected Studies . Volume 751 ). Ashgate Publishing , Aldershot 2003, ISBN 978-0-86078-895-9 , No. XI (English).
  • Regiomontan's mathematical studies during his time in Vienna. In: Günther Hamann (Ed.): Regiomontanus Studies (=  session reports - Austrian Academy of Sciences , Philosophical-Historical Class . Volume 364 ). Publishing house of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna 1980, ISBN 978-3-7001-0339-4 , p. 175-209 .
  • Mathematics in the Saxon-Thuringian area in the 15th and 16th centuries. In: Rainer Gebhardt (Hrsg.): Kaufmanns arithmetic books and mathematical writings of the early modern times. (=  Writings of the Adam-Ries-Bund eV Volume 22). Adam-Ries-Bund , Annaberg-Buchholz 2011, ISBN 978-3-930430-94-9 , pp. 1–22.
  • Jost Bürgi's "Artistic Way" for calculating the sine values. In: Gudrun Wolfschmidt : Festschrift - Proceedings of the Scriba Memorial Meeting - History of Mathematics. (=  Nuncius Hamburgensis Volume 36). tredition, Hamburg 2017, ISBN 978-3-7345-5289-2 , pp. 195-213.
  • Barrel measurement (visor art) in the late Middle Ages and early modern times. In: Rainer Gebhardt (ed.): Visor and arithmetic books of the early modern times. (=  Writings of the Adam-Ries-Bund eV Volume 19). Adam-Ries-Bund, Annaberg-Buchholz 2008, ISBN 978-3-930430-78-9 , pp. 1-36.
  • The astronomer David Fabricius (1564-1617): Life and work. In: Reports on the history of science . Volume 23. Weinheim 2003, pp. 127-142, doi : 10.1002 / bewi.20000230205 .

Gauss and his environment

Heine and "Mouche"

More work


Series edited by Folkerts are:

  • Boethius. Texts and treatises on the history of the exact sciences. Franz Steiner Verlag, Stuttgart, Volume 12 (1985) to Volume 69 (2018); 58 volumes.
  • Algorism. Studies in the history of mathematics and the natural sciences. Institute for the History of Natural Sciences, Munich, or Dr. Erwin Rauner Verlag, Augsburg, from Volume 1 (1988); so far 85 volumes.

Folkerts has been co-editor of the Nicolaus Copernicus Complete Edition, which was completed in 2019, since 1994 .

Folkerts is or was co-editor of numerous journals and series, including Arabic Sciences and Philosophy , Archive for History of Exact Sciences , Historia Mathematica , Science Networks and Sudhoffs Archiv .

Folkerts issued the following individual publications, among others:

  • Kurt Vogel : Smaller writings on the history of mathematics. Franz Steiner, Stuttgart 1988.
  • Mathematical Problems in the Middle Ages. The Latin and Arabic language area. Harrasowitz, Wiesbaden 1996.
  • (with Yvonne Dold-Samplonius , Joseph W. Dauben , Benno van Dalen :) From China to Paris: 2000 Years Transmission of Mathematical Ideas. Franz Steiner, Stuttgart 2002.
  • (with Andreas Kühne :) Astronomy as a Model for the Sciences in Early Modern Times. Dr. Erwin Rauner Verlag, Augsburg 2006.

He was also editor or co-editor of Festschriften for Helmuth Gericke (1985), Hans Wußing (1992), Hubert LL Busard (1993), Christoph J. Scriba (1996), Kurt-R. Biermann (1997), Paul Kunitzsch (2000), Felix Schmeidler (2001), Brigitte Hoppe (2002) and Ivo Schneider (2004).

Memberships in science academies, awards

Participation in organizations and committees


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Journal at Springer-Verlag.
  2. Membres correspondants et membres effectifs. Académie Internationale d'Histoire des Sciences / International Academy of the History of Science, accessed on December 10, 2019 (French).
  3. Member entry by Menso Folkerts (with picture) at the German Academy of Natural Scientists Leopoldina , accessed on December 10, 2019.
  4. Member entry Menso Folkerts, Prof. Dr. phil. habil. Saxon Academy of Sciences in Leipzig, accessed on December 10, 2019 .
  5. ^ Members. Prof. Dr. Menso Folkerts. Bavarian Academy of Sciences, accessed December 10, 2019 .
  6. Member entry Prof. Dr. Menso Folkerts. Academy of Sciences in Göttingen, accessed on December 10, 2019 .
  7. Craig Fraser : Awarding of the May Prizes for 2013. International Mathematical Union , accessed December 10, 2019 .
  8. ^ German National Committee. In: . Retrieved December 12, 2019 .
  9. a b c d e f g Joseph W. Dauben et al .: On the biography of Menso Folkerts . In: Joseph W. Dauben et al. (Ed.): Mathematics Celestial and Terrestrial . Festschrift for Menso Folkerts for his 65th birthday (=  Acta Historica Leopoldina . Volume 54 ). German Academy of Natural Scientists Leopoldina, Halle (Saale) 2008, ISBN 978-3-8047-2482-2 , p. 11-21 .