Constantin Carathéodory

(13.9.1873 Berlin/Germany - 2.2.1950 Munich/Germany)

Griechische Wissenschaftler

Constantin Carathéodory (Κωνσταντίνος Καραθεοδωρής), Greek-German mathematician who was born in Berlin and died in Munich. He made important contributions to the theory of real functions, conformal representations, calculus of variations, and to the theory of point-set measure, as well as to thermodynamics and relativity theory. Constantin Carathéodory was an extraordinary mathematician from the first half of the 20th century with a great worldwide influence.

Descending from the Greek élite of Constantinople, Carathéodory was raised by his Grandmother in Brussels, graduated from the military school of Brussels, became engineer at the Assiout dam in Egypt and finally dedicated a life of effort to mathematics and education. He studied and embarked on an international academic career, haunted by wars and catastrophes.

Carathéodory studied of mathematics at the University of Berlin beginning in 1900 then began his graduate studies in 1902 at the University of Göttingen, where he received his Ph.D. in 1904 under the supervision of Hermann Minkowski. After teaching at the Universities of Hannover (1909), Breslau (1910-1913), Göttingen (1913-1918), and Berlin (1918-1920), Carathéodory accepted a post at the University of Smyrna in Anatolia. When the Turks razed Smyrna in 1922, Carathéodory saved the university library and moved it with him to the University of Athens, where he taught until 1924. Carathéodory was subsequently appointed professor of mathematics at the University of Munich.

In 1916, Carathéodory when he was a full professor of mathematics in Göttingen, Germany he received this letter from Berlin:

Berlin, Sunday

Dear colleague!

I find your derivation wonderful, now I understand everything. At first, the small writing mistakes on the second page had caused me some difficulties. Now, however, I understand everything. You should publish the theory in this new form in the Annals of Physics since the physicists do not normally know anything about this subject as was also the case with me. With my letter I must have come across to you like a Berliner who had just discovered Grunewald and wondered whether people were already living there.

If you wouldn't mind also making the effort to present to me the canonical transfromations, you'll find in me a grateful and attentive audience. If you, however, answer the question about the closed time trajectories, I will appear before you with my hands folded. The underlying truth, though, is well worth some perspiration.

Best regards, your Albert Einstein.


See also more information from

by Maria Georgiadou, Mathematics and Politics in Turbulent Times, Springer 2004, ISBN: 3-540-44258-8

Constantin Caratheodory: An International Tribute , Themistocles M. Rassias , World Scientific Publishing Company, Incorporated, 1991

Advances in Convex Analysis and Global Optimization: Honoring the Memory of C. Caratheodory (1873-1950)

Albert Einstein, edited by Robert Schulmann, A. J. Kox, Michel Janssen, and József Illy, The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein, Volume 8: The Berlin Years: Correspondence, 1914-1918.