Moritz Cantor

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Moritz Benedikt Cantor

Moritz Benedikt Cantor (born August 23, 1829 in Mannheim ; † April 9, 1920 in Heidelberg ) was the first professor of the history of mathematics in Germany.


Cantor first studied mathematics in Heidelberg from 1848 , later from 1851 in Göttingen with Carl Friedrich Gauß , Wilhelm Weber and Moritz Stern and in 1852 in Berlin with Peter Gustav Lejeune Dirichlet and Jakob Steiner . After receiving his doctorate on May 6, 1851 with the thesis A Little Uses Coordinate System , he completed his habilitation in Heidelberg in 1853 with the basics of elementary arithmetic and taught the history of mathematics there since 1860, and in a regular three-semester course since 1875. At the end of the 1850s, during a stay in Paris , he met the math historian and geometer Michel Chasles , who published a work by Cantor on the history of mathematics (Zenodorus) in the Comptes Rendus of the Paris Academy. In 1853 Moritz Cantor became a private lecturer at the University of Heidelberg, the Ruperto Carola . Cantor became an adjunct professor there in 1863 and honorary professor there in 1875, until his retirement in 1913.

From 1859 to 1900 he was co-editor of the journal for mathematics and physics , which published articles on the history of mathematics in its supplements.

Tomb Moritz Cantor tomb Bergfriedhof (Heidelberg) (Abt.Q)

On August 23, 1868, his birthday, Moritz Cantor married Telly Gerothwohl. His grave and that of his wife Telly Cantor, b. Gerothwohl is in the Heidelberg Bergfriedhof in department: Q 312.


Cantor is best known for his lectures on the history of mathematics , which cover the period up to the end of the 18th century. There are many errors in his history, some of which were corrected in the annual report of the DMV from 1922 ( Ferdinand Rudio ) and in particular by Gustaf Eneström , a sharp critic of Cantor, who devoted hundreds of pages and a separate column in his journal Bibliotheca Mathematica to corrections to Cantor's lectures. Nevertheless, Cantor's work is still considered one of the most fundamental (and most extensive) projects in the history of mathematics.

One point of criticism of Cantor's work was his view that the Indo-Arabic decimal system came from the Pythagoreans, for which the so-called Geometry II , which Boethius was ascribed, served as evidence - he considered this 11th-century compilation to be an original work by Boethius. First he took this point of view in his Mathematical Contributions to the Cultural Life of Nations . He also dealt with the transmission of Indian-Arabic arithmetic in the West in further essays and examined the transmission of practical aspects of geometry from ancient times to the Middle Ages ( The Roman Agrimensors ).

Cantor was from 1859 co-editor of the journal for mathematics and physics, which he expanded with the supplement volumes Abhandlungen zur Geschichte der Mathematik (from 1877, published independently from volume 11 in 1901) into an important journal for the history of mathematics in the 19th century, alongside Eneströms Bibliotheca Mathematica and Baldassare Boncompagnis Bulletino. He was friends with Boncompagni and published many articles in his Bulletino.

Cantor also published biographies e.g. B. by Karl Wilhelm Feuerbach (1910), Gauß (1899), Cardano (1903), Leonardo da Vinci (1890), Copernicus (1899), Nikolaus von Cusa (1889).



  • Lectures on the history of mathematics. 4 volumes. Leipzig: BG Teubner, 1880–1908. (A comprehensive account of the history of mathematics.) Vol. 1 (1880, 2nd edition 1894, 3rd edition 1907) deals with the time up to 1200, Vol. 2 (1892, 2nd edition 1900) from 1200 to 1668, Vol. 3 ( 1894 to 1898, 2nd edition 1901) from 1668 to 1758, Vol. 4 (1908), which deals with the time up to Gauß's dissertation in 1799, is an anthology of contributions by Cantor, Gino Loria , Florian Cajori , Viktor Bobynin , Anton von Braunmühl , Eugen Netto , Viktor Kommerell , Giulio Vivanti , Siegmund Günther , Carl Raimund Wallner . Together the work has over 3900 pages.
  • Mathematical contributions to the cultural life of peoples. Halle (Saale) 1863.
  • The Roman Agrimensors and Their Position in the History of Field Measurement. Leipzig 1876.
  • Political Arithmetic or The Arithmetic of Daily Life. Teubner, Leipzig 1898, 1903. (Financial mathematics and others)
  • Euclid and his century. 1867 (on Euclid , Archimedes , Apollonius ).


Web links

Wikisource: Moritz Cantor  - Sources and full texts
Commons : Moritz Benedikt Cantor  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Some contributions to the Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB), to which Cantor contributed with numerous biographies from 1875, also show a certain carelessness in dealing with sources. He reported rumors about the two-wheeler inventor Karl Drais that he wanted to shoot a cannon around the corner by laying it on its side.
  2. Cantor . In: Dauben, Scriba (Ed.): Writing the History of Mathematics. 2002, p. 389
  3. Members of the Society of German Natural Scientists and Doctors 1857
  4. ^ Member entry by Moritz Cantor at the German Academy of Natural Scientists Leopoldina , accessed on September 26, 2016.
  5. ^ Foreign members of the Russian Academy of Sciences since 1724. Moritz Benedikt Cantor. Russian Academy of Sciences, accessed September 4, 2015 .
  6. ^ Fellows Directory. Biographical Index: Former RSE Fellows 1783–2002. Royal Society of Edinburgh, accessed October 16, 2019 .
  7. ^ Moritz Cantor. Member entry at the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences , accessed on September 26, 2016 .
  8. ^ Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature