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The University of Bonn mourns for Friedrich Hirzebruch

Bonn’s most prominent mathematician dies at age 84

The University of Bonn mourns for Professor Dr. Friedrich Hirzebruch. It was recently made public that the great mathematician from Bonn passed away at 84 years old on Pentecost. Professor Hirzebruch taught and researched at the University of Bonn until he retired in 1993 and directed the Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in Bonn, which he founded, from 1980 to 1995. He is considered one of the most significant influences on mathematics in Germany since the Second World War, and his work influenced trends on the development of modern mathematics.

Friedrich Hirzebruch was born on October 17, 1927 in Hamm, Westphalia. He studied mathematics in Münster and Zurich from 1945 to 1950, and then went to Princeton in 1952, where he stayed for another two years. He was appointed as a professor at the University of Bonn shortly thereafter, where he faithfully remained until the end. His areas of primary research interest were geometry and topology.

He was often honored for his achievements with such awards as the Knight Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Wolf Prize in Mathematics, the Seki Takakazu Prize from Japan, the Lomonosov Gold Medal from Russia, the Albert Einstein Medal, and the Georg Cantor Medal from the German Mathematical Society. More than 14 universities offered him honorary doctorates, and he was also a member of numerous science academies and the Order of the Pour le Mérite.

“The loss of Friedrich Hirzebruch is the loss of a brilliant mind for Bonn. The university and the city owe him so much, and not least he is attributed with giving mathematics in Bonn a worldwide reputation,” said Dean Jürgen Fohrmann in a first response to the news of the professor's death. He added, "What Professor Hirzebruch has started here in Bonn will live on. We will always remember him and be thankful of that.”

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