Armenia honors mathematician Dmitry Mirimanoff

Published: Sunday September 25, 2011

Dmitry Mirimanoff. Courtesy photo

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Armenia honors mathematician Dmitry Mirimanoff

Yerevan - Armenia will pay tribute to Dmitry Mirimanoff (1861-1945), Russia-born mathematician of Armenian descent who earned international acclaim and debated fundamental theories with Albert Einstein, but has been largely unknown to Armenians.

The special conference timed to the 150th anniversary of Mirimanoff's birth is being co-organized by the Yerevan State University, Armenia's Academy of Sciences and the Mathematics Society.

The conference will involve two of Mirimanoff's descendants living in Switzerland and a number of accomplished scientists from Armenia and abroad, including Vahe Gurzadyan of Yerevan Physics Institute and French mathematician Guy Terjanian.

"A couple of years ago Dr. Patrick Mirimanoff, who is Dmitry Mirimanoff's grandson, became interested in his roots and this is how I discovered his grandfather," Pavel Galoumian who initiated the conference idea told The Armenian Reporter.

"My first impression was that he was an outstanding mathematician completely unknown in Armenia," said Galoumian, a physicist by training who previously worked in the field in Armenia and Switzerland.

From Tiflis to Geneva by way of Russia

Born September 13, 1861 in the Russian town of Pereslavl-Zalessky, Dmitry Mirimanoff was a son of engineer Semyon Mirimanovich Mirimanov and Maria Dmitriyevna Rudakova from a noble Russian family who were land owners in the area.

Mirimanovs (Mirimanians) were one of the most prominent Tiflis (Tbilisi) families, with two of its representatives serving as city mayors in the mid-19th century. The family settled in Tiflis more than a century earlier and is believed to have relocated from the Armenian community in New Julfa, Iran.

Dmitry Mirimanoff left Russia in 1880 to pursue university studies in Italy and France. In France, he first enrolled at the University of Montpellier and then the University of Paris, where he was taught by some of the greatest mathematicians of the time, including Jean-Claude Bouquet, Emile Picard, Paul Emile Appell, Charles Hermite and Henri Poincare. In 1897, Mirimanoff was elected member of the Moscow Mathematical Society.

In 1887 in Geneva Dmitry Mirimanoff married Malvina Geneviève Valentine Adriansen. They had two sons: Alexandre born in Oranienbaum (now Lomonossov, Russia) in 1898, and André born in Geneva in 1902.  

In 1900 Mirimanoff defended his doctoral theses and entered the faculty of the University of Geneva, first as privat-docent and rising to full professorship in 1931. That same year he was elected an honorary member of the Swiss Mathematical Society. He was honored "docteur honoris causa" at the University of Lausanne in 1937 and at the University of Lyon in 1942. Dmitry Mirimanoff died on 5 January 1945 in Geneva.

Scientific heritage

Main scientific works of Mirimanoff were devoted to the number theory, set theory and the theory of probability; he also contributed to the relativistic theory of the electron in the media. He was the author of sixty scientific publications many of them winning high scientific acclaim.

His contributions and pioneering works are acknowledged in mathematical terminology as "Mirimanoff's paradox", "Kummer--Mirimanoff Congruences" and "Cauchy--Liouville--Mirimanoff Polynomials."

In a 2001 book dedicated to Mirimanoff, Swiss mathematician Ernst Specker noted that "A highly original development of set theory began with Mirimanoff. Many of his results were unrecognized, then later obtained by and credited to others. We owe him, in particular, the definition of the ‘Cantorian limit' of a set".  

In recent years Mirimanoff's role has been recognized by the Stanford Encyclopedia and in publications of Paul Taylor, Yvon Gauthier, Marc Renault and Donald Knuth.

Exchange with Einstein

In 1909, Mirimanoff published an article in the Berlin-based journal Annalen der Physik which drew the attention of Albert Einstein. The article devoted to the relativistic theory of electron in the media led to Einstein's "Comments on the work of D. Mirimanoff..." submitted to the same journal.

The scientific exchange between Einstein and Mirimanoff continued in private with both scientists commenting on cutting edge theories of the day.

Armenian impact

Throughout the twentieth century several mathematicians of Armenian origin working abroad achieved remarkable results in number theory.

Among them are Emil Artin (1898-1962), one of the leading algebraists of the century, Levon Khachatryan (1954-2002), who was recognized for contributions to set theory, number theory and cryptography, and Guy Terjanian famous for his contribution to the Fermat's last theorem.

However, Dmitry Mirimanoff was probably the first modern mathematician of Armenian origin who left a profound imprint in the fundamental science. Today, Mirimanoff's accomplishments are being finally celebrated in the Armenian homeland.

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