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Karl Friedrich Geiser

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26 Feb 1843

Langenthal, Bern, Switzerland

7 May 1934

Küsnacht, Zurich, Switzerland

Karl Geiser's father was a butcher but his great uncle was Steiner which certainly helped him in his career, particularly when he went to the University of Berlin. He went to study at Berlin after first studying at the Polytechnikum in Zurich and, from 1863 to 1873, he taught at Berlin.

In 1873 Geiser was appointed professor at Zurich Polytechnikum. This institution was later called the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule and Geiser was to have as colleagues there, first Frobenius and then Hurwitz who filled Frobenius's chair.

Geiser taught algebraic geometry (his own research topic), differential geometry and invariant theory at Zurich. He published on algebraic geometry and minimal surfaces. One of his most important results explains how the 28 double tangents of the plane quadric are related to the 27 straight lines of the cubic surface. He is also remembered by those working in algebraic geometry for his discovery of an involution, now named after him.

However Geiser's most important contribution was not in his original research but rather in his political skills in organising the educational system in Switzerland. In this he was helped by having many contacts with political figures and also important mathematicians in other European countries.

Although Geiser was helped in his career by his relationship with Steiner , he repaid the debt by editing Steiner 's unpublished lecture notes and treatises.

Another important contribution which Geiser made, that was not in the area of research, was to organise the first International Congress of Mathematicians held in Zurich in 1897. He was also the president of Congress.

Source:School of Mathematics and Statistics University of St Andrews, Scotland