(January 23, 1862 – February 14, 1943)
Famous for his Hilbert space, David Hilbert is next to 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 many areas, including: Functional Analysis, Invariant Theory, and Axiomatic Theory. On the sphere of influence, few surpassed him. As a dedicated professor, he mentored several renowned students such as Hermann Weyl, John von Neumann (who coined 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 Henri Poincaré, Hermann Weyl and Leopold Kronecker opposed his Set Theory. Unable to stop the Nazis from dismissing and persecuting Jewish scientists and mathematicians in the 1930s, Hilbert assisted in the best way he could: by giving them glowing references which helped them in getting good jobs 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 computing and mathematical physics. 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. He is the eponym of numerous concepts, parameters, functions, conjectures, theorems and axioms. The Hilbert lunar impact crater (abutting Pasteur crater) is dedicated to him.