(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 (World Chess Champion from 1894 to 1921). He also encouraged Emmy Noether; and supported Georg Cantor when math-heavyweights like Leopold Kronecker, Hermann Weyl, and Henri Poincaré condemned his Set Theory. Unable to dissuade the Nazis from dismissing and persecuting Jewish academicians in the 1930s, Hilbert helped in the best way he could: by giving them glowing references and favorable recommendations with which they secured good employments abroad. Together with Albert Einstein he developed the Einstein-Hilbert Action: an important precursor for Einstein Field Equations in General Relativity. Meanwhile, some of his far-reaching contributions to algebra have been applied to physics and computer science. Also, his geometrical axioms succeeded the Euclidean inventions which have been used for over two millennia. Adored and admired throughout his lifetime, David Hilbert remains among the most influential mathematicians. The 173-kilometer-wide Hilbert lunar crater (abutting Pasteur) is dedicated to him. He is also the eponym of several concepts, functions, parameters, axioms, theorems and conjectures.