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Herbet Busemann

Herbert Busemann (12 May 1905 – 3 February 1994) was a German-American mathematician specializing in convex and differential geometry. He is the author of Busemann’s theorem in Euclidean geometry and geometric tomography. He was a member of the Royal Danish Academy and a winner of the Lobachevsky Medal (1985), the first American mathematician to receive it. He was also a Fulbright scholar in New Zealand in 1952.

Herbert Busemann was born in Berlin to a well-to-do family. His father was one of the directors of Krupp, where Busemann also worked for several years. He studied at University of Munich, Paris, and Rome. He defended his dissertation in University of Göttingen in 1931, where his advisor was Richard Courant. He remained in Göttingen as an assistant until 1933, when he escaped Nazi Germany to Copenhagen (he had a Jewish grandfather). He worked at the University of Copenhagen until 1936, when he left to the United States. There, he got married in 1939 and naturalized in 1943. He had temporary positions at the Institute of Advanced Studies, Johns Hopkins University, Illinois Institute of Technology, Smith College, and eventually became a professor in 1947 at University of Southern California. He advanced to a distinguished professor in 1964, and continued working at USC until his retirement in 1970. Over the course of his work at USC, he supervised over 10 Ph.D. students.

He is the author of six monographs, two of which were translated into Russian. According to the Los Angeles Times, the Lobachevsky Medal he received in 1985, was honored with 2,000 roubles for his “innovative book” titled The geometry of geodesics (Academic Press, 1959).

Busemann was also an active mathematical citizen. At different times, he was the president of the California chapter of Mathematical Association of America, and a member of the council of the American Mathematical Society.[6]

Busemann was also an accomplished linguist; he was able to read and speak in French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, and Danish. He could also read Arabic, Latin, Greek and Swedish.[7] He translated a number of papers and monograph, most notably from Russian, a rare language at the time. He also painted and had several public exhibitions.[8] He died in Santa Ynez, California on February 3, 1994, at the age of 88.[9

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