(January 23, 1862 – February 14, 1943)
Famous for his Hilbert space, David Hilbert is in league with Srinivasa Ramanujan and Henri Poincaré when it comes to the greatest mathematicians who lived into the 20th century. (My research inferred that Alexander Grothendieck ranks above all who were born in 20th century). Hilbert made game-changing discoveries in areas such as: Invariant Theory, Axiomatic Theory, and Functional Analysis. On the sphere of influence, few surpassed him. As a dedicated professor, he mentored several renowned students that include: Hermann Weyl, John von Neumann (who coined-up the term “Hilbert space”), and Emanuel Lasker (the World Chess Champion from 1894 to 1921). He also encouraged Emmy Noether; and supported Georg Cantor when heavyweights like Leopold Kronecker, Hermann Weyl and Henri Poincaré opposed his Set Theory. Unable to dissuade the Nazis from dismissing and persecuting Jewish academicians in the 1930s, Hilbert assisted in the best way he could: by giving them glowing references and/or recommendations which helped them in securing employments abroad. Together with Albert Einstein he developed the Einstein-Hilbert Action, (which is a precursor for the Einstein Field Equations in General Relativity). His contributions to algebra are far-reaching. Many have been applied to physics and computing. Also, his geometrical axioms were able to replace the Euclidean inventions which have been used for more than 2000 years. Beloved and respected, David Hilbert is undoubtedly one of the most influential mathematicians ever. The Hilbert lunar crater (abutting Pasteur) is dedicated to him. He is also the eponym of numerous concepts, functions, parameters, theorems and conjectures.