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Old 2010-11-17, 13:27   #1
R.D. Silverman
 
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Nov 2003

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Default Lehigh University

This post is for Bruce.

Have you read the latest issue of the Notices?

There is a book review of a book that discusses mathematicians'
flight from Nazi Germany.

One comment caught my eye that, if I were a professor at Lehigh, I would
find offensive.

The comment was that when Weil fled Germany he took at post in the U.S.
However, what is offensive is the remark that he was "condemned to
Lehigh".

I find this denigration of a fine school to be offensive.
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Old 2010-11-17, 14:03   #2
bdodson
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by R.D. Silverman View Post
The comment was that when Weil fled Germany he took at post in the U.S.
However, what is offensive is the remark that he was "condemned to
Lehigh".
I was hired at Lehigh partly on the basis of an application stating that
if someone was interested in hiring me, Prof Weil would support my application.

The source of the statement you're objecting to was Weil himself; including
a famous phrase in his commentary on his life and publications in his Collected
Works, referring to Lehigh as "that unmentionable place*". This was well
known to people at Lehigh, and even the mention of Weil's interest was
probably sufficient for the interview. In subsequent reviews of my
employment, Prof Weil did in fact write letters addressed to Lehigh on my
behalf.

Once I was at Lehigh, when Weil invited my spouse and I to IAS, the first
thing he showed us at his office was his letter of termination of his position
at Lehigh --- seemed to be right in the front of his file cabinet, many years
later.

One of our senior faculty subsequently had Prof Weil over to his house here
in Bethlehem; and Prof Weil and his wife did recall their stay in Bethlehem
with some affection (one of their daughters was born here; "Fountain Hill,
PA"). Weil's appointment was not as a regular faculty member, but as in
instructor in a temporary position teaching young enlistees in the armed
forces. Conic sections, high school algebra. It wasn't a very good match.
He subsequently went to Haverford, then jail in Brazil, before being rescued
with a position at the University of Chicago. If I'm recalling correctly the
order of the events.

Ancient history, and not particularly relevant to the Lehigh of today.

-Bruce (this likely doesn't belong in the Cunningham subforum!, if one
of our moderators has a more appropriate location.)

* cf., my current location in "Erehwon, Ut.", which was the instigation
of the comment.
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Old 2010-11-17, 16:18   #3
bdodson
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by R.D. Silverman View Post
...
latest issue of the Notices?
...
if I were a professor at Lehigh, I would find offensive.

The comment was that when Weil fled Germany he took at post in the U.S.
However, what is offensive is the remark that he was "condemned to
Lehigh". ...
Two other points. I mentioned the Notices article to a colleague, and
got what is most likely the Lehigh view
Quote:
Oh; that again.
Professor Weil's vita and publications have had an extraordinary amount
of focused attention. He in fact does _not_ mention Lehigh in his account
of leaving Germany for India, and following the brief stays at Lehigh and
Haverford, having fled to Brazil. The stay at Haverford was documented
with a joint paper written while he was there, but there is no published
paper associated with his term at Lehigh. The single flaw was a book
report, which he closed by giving his address at the time as "Erehwon, UT".
This apparently caused people from the US to inquire as to when/how he'd
been in the state of Utah. As I recall, the single mention of the
"unmentionable place" in print was in the commentary on the book review,
recounting just this info --- he hadn't been in Utah, but rather in the
"unmentionable place".

So then everyone that didn't already know wanted to know where the
unmentionable place was; hence Lehigh's place in infamy. If he'd been
offered a tenured appointment at Lehigh (which he was surely overqualified
for, except for fluency in English, and a somewhat negative view of
democracy as a political system) he might not have ended up in that jail
in Brazil; and we might never have had such a dramatic story associated
with the proof of the Riemann hyp for curves over finite fields. Just to
remove any ambiguities introduced in my previous reply. -bd
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Old 2010-11-17, 23:38   #4
Random Poster
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bdodson View Post
If he'd been offered a tenured appointment at Lehigh (which he was surely overqualified for, except for fluency in English, and a somewhat negative view of democracy as a political system) he might not have ended up in that jail in Brazil; and we might never have had such a dramatic story associated with the proof of the Riemann hyp for curves over finite fields.
Huh? Weil did indeed prove the RH over finite fields while in prison, but that was in 1940 in France, long before Lehigh and Brazil.
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Old 2010-11-17, 23:54   #5
R.D. Silverman
 
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Nov 2003

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Random Poster View Post
Huh? Weil did indeed prove the RH over finite fields while in prison, but that was in 1940 in France, long before Lehigh and Brazil.
IIRC he was jailed by the French (his home country) for failure to report
for military service.
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Old 2010-11-18, 16:41   #6
bdodson
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Random Poster View Post
Huh? Weil did indeed prove the RH over finite fields while in prison, but that was in 1940 in France, long before Lehigh and Brazil.
Yes, the French prison, 1940, sounds like a better date. And Haverford/
Rockefeller, 1941-1942, was before Lehigh; now that I'm looking. The
preface in Vol I of the Collected Works is dated Nov 1978, which is very
close to the date we visited his office (following my start at Lehigh, August,
1978). The Utah remark is in the commentary on the paper/correction
[1945]. Ah, "received by the editors Aug 1944"; with the affiliation "University of Erehwon"
(that's = "Nowhere"). Actually, the subsequent commentary on [1946a]
includes a remark regarding 1942-1944 objecting to the term "University",
if I'm reading Weil's French correctly.

In any case, when Weil "sketched the outline of a new theory" in 1940,
complete with how it leads to the solution of this analogue of the Riemann
hypothesis [as reported in the PNAS paper, 1941; cf. Comptes Rendus,
April 1940], that didn't entirely settle the matter. Here's the wiki view
Quote:
Among his major accomplishments were the 1940 proof, while in prison, of the Riemann hypothesis for local zeta-functions, and his subsequent laying of proper foundations for algebraic geometry to support that result (from 1942 to 1946, most intensively). By modern standards his claim to have a proof had a very easy ride, ...
with complete details appearing in the two 1948 papers. Except that the wiki
part about teaching undergrads would have been at Haverford; as the students
in the position at Lehigh weren't high school graduates (Lehigh was not co-ed
at the time; there weren't hardly any regular undergrads).

Again, this thread does not belong in either Cunningham or Factoring_Projects.
If this was directed to me, perhaps a PM might have sufficed?

-Bruce
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