Karl Theodor Vahlen
|Gauleiter of Gau Pomerania|
22 March 1925 – 21 August 1927
|Preceded by||Position established|
|Succeeded by||Walther von Corswant|
Reich Ministry of Science, Education and Culture
27 June 1934 – 1 January 1937
Prussian Academy of Science
1 January 1939 – 1 April 1943
|Born||30 June 1869|
|Died||16 November 1945 (aged 76)|
|Known for||Journal editor Deutsche Mathematik|
Karl Theodor Vahlen (30 June 1869 in Vienna, Austria-Hungary – 16 November 1945 in Prague, Czechoslovakia) was an Austrian-born mathematician who was an ardent supporter of the Nazi Party. He served as the first Gauleiter of Pomerania and was a member of both the SA and SS.
From 1893, Vahlen was a Privatdozent in mathematics at the Königsberg Albertina University. In 1904, he began teaching at the University of Greifswald, and in 1911 he became an ordinarius professor there. He entered military service in World War I and was an artillery battery commander. He left the service in 1917 with the rank of Major of the reserves in the 6th Royal Saxon Field Artillery Regiment 68, after having earned the Iron Cross first and second class. Vahlen in 1919 initially became a member of the German National People's Party (DNVP). In 1922 he had joined the Nazi Party (NSDAP) but when it was outlawed as a result of the Beer Hall Putsch he joined the National Socialist Freedom Movement. In May 1924, under its auspices, he was elected to the Reichstag for electoral constituency 6 (Pomerania). When the ban on the Nazi Party was lifted, he rejoined (membership number 3961) and on 22 March 1925 was named the first Nazi Gauleiter of Gau Pomerania. By 1927, Adolf Hitler was replacing many early Party leaders whom he considered not to have the attributes to be effective party administrators. Consequently, Vahlen was placed on indefinite leave on 1 May 1927 and his newly appointed Deputy, Walther von Corswant, was effectively put in charge. On 21 August, Vahlen was finally dismissed and Corswant officially became Gauleiter.
In 1923, Vahlen was made a Rector at the University of Greifswald. On 11 August 1924, Constitution Day, Vahlen had incited a crowd at the University against the Weimar Republic, which resulted in taking down the flags of the Republic and the Free State of Prussia. The University placed him on leave for political abuse of his function, and in 1927 he was dismissed without a pension. Upon his dismissal, Friedrich Schmidt-Ott increased the funding Vahlen had been receiving for his work for the German Navy since 1922. Vahlen worked briefly as an assistant in Johannes Stark's private physics laboratory. In 1930 Vahlen returned to his birthplace and became a lecturer of mathematics at the Technische Hochschule Wien.
Once Hitler became Chancellor of Germany on 30 January 1933, Vahlen's career gained momentum and flourished in Germany as a result of his support for the NSDAP. In that year, he became an ordinarius professor of mathematics at the Humboldt University of Berlin, as successor to Richard Edler von Mises, who emigrated from Germany as a result of the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service, which was in part directed against professors with Jewish ancestry, which von Mises had. After 1933, Vahlen was a strong advocate of Deutsche Mathematik, a parallel movement to Deutsche Physik, advocated by the Nobel Laureate physicists Philipp Lenard and Johannes Stark; both movements were anti-Semitic. From 1934, he was ordinarius professor at the University of Berlin, a position he held until attaining emeritus status in 1937. In July 1933 Vahlen joined the Sturmabteilung (SA), and in July 1936 he switched to the Schutzstaffel (SS), with the rank of Sturmbannführer. He received successive promotions, the last being to SS-Brigadeführer on 9 November 1943.
During the period 1933 to 1937, Vahlen served as third vice president of the Kaiser-Wilhelm Gesellschaft. From May 1934, he was Assistant Secretary and head of the Science Office at the Reichserziehungsministerium (Reich Ministry of Science, Education and Culture.). Actually, the Science Office was split into two components, WI, a continuation of the Prussian department, and WII, the army office for research. Vahlen was head of WI, but, in actuality, the deputy chief, the chemist Franz Bachér ran WI. From this position, in 1936, Vahlen began publishing the journal Deutsche Mathematik, for which the Berlin mathematician Ludwig Bieberbach was the editor; in the journal, political articles preceded the scholarly articles. On 1 January 1937 Vahlen was relieved of his duties at the Ministry. Through a manipulation of the election process by Vahlen and his supporters, he was selected as president of the Prussian Academy of Sciences in 1938 and remained in this post until 1 April 1943. In 1944-45 Vahlen worked as a lecturer at the Charles University in Prague. At the end of the war he was imprisoned in Prague and died in Czech custody in November 1945.
Theodor Vahlen was an early proponent of geometric algebra. His 1902 paper in Mathematische Annalen recounts William Kingdon Clifford's construction of his 2n dimensional algebra with n − 1 anti-commuting square roots of −1. Vahlen also recounts split-biquaternions and parabolic biquaternions originated by Clifford. But Vahlen cites Eduard Study most of all since Study also focussed on the geometric motions (translation and rotation) as implicit in algebra. Since Vahlen explores some of the fractional-linear transformations of Clifford algebras, he is sometimes remembered for the Vahlen matrices. These are matrices with coefficients in a Clifford algebra that act on a projective line over a ring. In 1985 Lars Ahlfors recalled the article as follows: "The method was introduced as early as 1901 by K.T. Vahlen in a rather short, but remarkable, paper. His motivation was to unify the theory of motions in Euclidean, hyperbolic, and elliptic space, which is obviously in the spirit of Clifford. In this respect the paper seems somewhat antiquated, but the essence is in the method it advocates."
The subject of relativity was a polemical issue in Nazi Germany. As Mark Walker writes
- Eventually Vahlen adopted the common tactic of ascribing the theory of relativity to other "Aryan" physicists, thereby accusing Einstein of plagiarism, but also making the theory palatable to the National Socialist state.:97
- 1899: "Rationale Funktion der Wurzeln, symmetrische und Affektfunktionen", (i.e. "Rational functions of roots, symmetric and effect-functions") Klein's encyclopedia, 1–1.
- 1900: "Arithmetische Theorie der Formen", (i.e. "Arithmetic Theory of Forms") Klein's encyclopedia, Volume 1-2
- 1902: "Über Bewegungen und complexe Zahlen", (i.e. "On Motions and Complex Numbers") Mathematische Annalen 55:585–93
- 1905: Abstrakte Geometrie. Untersuchungen über die Grundlagen der euklidischen und nicht-euklidischen Geometrie, (i.e. Arithmetic Geometry. Studies of the Foundations of Euclidean and Non-Euclidean Geometry), Leipzig, 2nd edition 1940, Deutsche Mathematik, 2nd supplement
- 1911: Konstruktionen und Approximationen in systematischer Darstellung, (i.e. Systematic Representations of Constructions and Approximations) Teubner
- 1922: Ballistik (i.e. Ballistics) de Gruyter 2nd edition 1942
- 1929: Deviation und Kompensation, (i.e. Deviation and Compensation) Vieweg-Verlag
- 1942: "Die Paradoxien der relativen Mechanik", (i.e. "Paradoxes of relative mechanics") Leipzig, Deutsche Mathematik, 3rd supplement
- Beyerchen, Alan D. (1977) Scientists Under Hitler: Politics and the Physics Community in the Third Reich (Yale) ISBN 0-300-01830-4
- Hentschel, Klaus, editor and Ann M. Hentschel, editorial assistant and Translator (1996) Physics and National Socialism: An Anthology of Primary Sources (Birkhäuser) ISBN 0-8176-5312-0
- Höffkes, Karl: Hitlers Politische Generale. Die Gauleiter des Dritten Reiches: ein biographisches Nachschlagewerk. Grabert-Verlag, Tübingen, 1986, ISBN 3-87847-163-7.
- Macrakis, Kristie (1993) Surviving the Swastika: Scientific Research in Nazi Germany (Oxford) ISBN 0-19-507010-0
- Theodor Vahlen at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
- Höffkes, 1986, p. 354. sfn error: no target: CITEREFHöffkes,_1986,_p._354 (help)
- Höffkes, 1986, p. 355. sfn error: no target: CITEREFHöffkes,_1986,_p._355 (help)
- Dietrich Orlow: The History of the Nazi Party: 1919-1933 (University of Pittsburgh Press), 1969, p. 119,ISBN 0-8229-3183-4.
- Michael D. Miller & Andreas Schulz: Gauleiter: The Regional Leaders of the Nazi Party and Their Deputies, 1925-1945, Volume I (Herbert Albrecht - H. Wilhelm Hüttmann), R. James Bender Publishing, 2012, p. 31, ISBN 1-932970-21-5.
- Walker, Mark (1995) Nazi Science: Myth, Truth, and the German Atomic Bomb, pages 95–99, (Persius, 1995) ISBN 0-306-44941-2
- Hentschel, 1996, Appendix F; see entry for Vahlen.
- Macrakis, 1993, pp. 78-79.
- Richard von Mises and the economist Ludwig von Mises were brothers.
- Höffkes, 1986, pp. 355-356. sfn error: no target: CITEREFHöffkes,_1986,_pp._355-356 (help)
- Beyerchen, 1977, p. 57.
- Beyerchen, 1977, pp. 144-145.
- Lars Ahlfors (1985) "Mobius transformations and Clifford numbers", pages 65 to 73 in Differential Geometry and Complex Analysis, H.E. Rauch Memorial Volume, I. Chavel & H.M. Farkas editors, Springer books ISBN 3-540-13543-X
- Rowe, J. E. (1923). "Review: Ballistik, by Dr. Theodor Vahlen" (PDF). Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 29 (4): 186–187. doi:10.1090/s0002-9904-1923-03703-8.
- Newspaper clippings about Theodor Vahlen in the 20th Century Press Archives of the ZBW
- Information about Theodor Vahlen in the Reichstag database