Question as in the title:

Who was Hermann Künneth? Where can I find some biographical information beyond what is available on Wikipedia?

The well-known Künneth formula, for example in the form of exactness of the sequence $$ 0 \to \bigoplus_{p+q = n} H_p(C) \otimes H_q(D) \to H_n(C \otimes D) \to \bigoplus_{p+q=n-1}\operatorname{Tor}_1(H_p(C),H_q(D)) \to 0, $$ for complexes $C$ and $D$ of flat modules over a PID appears prominently in essentially every book on homological algebra and algebraic topology. Of course, Künneth formulated his insight in terms of Betti numbers, not in terms of homology groups.

Nevertheless, biographical information on its originator seems quite hard to find.

Wikipedia links to Haupt's 5 page obituary in German which mainly focuses on Künneth's mathematics with only a few lines dedicated to his life.

Any further pointers would be appreciated.

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    $\begingroup$ I asked this question a while ago on math.stackexchange.com but I got no replies: math.stackexchange.com/q/222043 $\endgroup$ – Simon Nov 23 '12 at 6:46
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    $\begingroup$ Standard places to look would be Dieudonne's history book, or a Moritz Epple essay. $\endgroup$ – Ryan Budney Nov 23 '12 at 7:10
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    $\begingroup$ It is not quite clear to me what type of information you expect beyond the (German) Wikipedia article. I think a key point to note is that Künneth was for most of his professional life a high-school teacher, which might explain otherwise perhaps surprising things (eg, no students, unusual distribution of publication activity). $\endgroup$ – user9072 Nov 23 '12 at 12:53
  • $\begingroup$ I spend much of my time on historical biography. You might want more on Künneth for reasons of family history, local history, institutional history and so on. There may not be so many salient facts, though. $\endgroup$ – Charles Matthews Nov 23 '12 at 13:48

For the sake of the readers who are not fluent in German, I provide a translation of the German Wikipedia page (link to the revision at the time of posting this answer):

Hermann Künneth (1892-1975) was the son of the high school ("Gymnasium", the highest form of high school) teacher Christian Künneth. Beginning with 1910, he studied mathematics at the Universität Erlangen and the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München with a "break" from 1914-1919 where he served in the German army; he was injured twice and was prisoner of war with the British. Künneth was member of the AMV Fridericiana Erlangen, a musically oriented fraternity. His professors in Erlangen were Ernst Sigismund Fischer, Paul Gordan, Max Noether, Richard Baldus and Erhard Schmidt.

1912 he took his first Staatsexamen to become a teacher and 1920 he took his second. In 1920 he became teacher in Bavaria, in particular at high schools ("Gymnasien") in Kronach and Erlangen. He remained in contact with the University in Erlangen, where he got in PhD under the direction of Tietze in 1922 (and was assistant (professor) beginning with 1921). The title of his thesis was "Über die Bettischen Zahlen einer Produktmannigfaltigkeit" - "About the Betti numbers of a product manifold" (where he proved the Künneth formula).

1923 he became assistant (professor) in Berlin; interestingly, he became 1923 also teacher ("Studienrat") in Kronach. As already indicated, the switched to the high school Fridericianum in Erlangen in 1925, where he became Oberstudienrat in 1950 [this would not be a very high position at a high school these days, but I am not sure how it was then]. In 1942 he habilitated in Erlangen and was Privatdozent (a kind of freelancing professor) after that. After he retired in 1957 from his teaching job, he became associate professor in Erlangen. Otto Haupt said about this: "[he] developed an amazing and surprising scientific activity." (at the age of 65)

1964 he got the Bundesverdienstkreuz am Band (the second lowest order of the "Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany"). (See this newspaper article - it says: "His chivalric personality, of clear judgement, emanates human kindness and witty humour.")


A trick I always use in situations like this is to look for articles online in other languages and translate them to English using Google Translate, which might not give accurate grammar though semantically the translations are perfect.

A good language to try for Hermann Künneth is Deutsch. If you visit the Deutsch article, you can see that it provides more information and references than the English one.

It also happens that the French article has a useful section called "Biographie": https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hermann_K%C3%BCnneth

Another way to utilize Wikipedia is to look at the talk/discussion page for the article in different languages. It usually contains further information and sources.

This website has picture material that might also be useful for your research: http://owpdb.mfo.de/show_workshop?id=135

  • $\begingroup$ Semantically the translations are perfect?? I assure you: not always. $\endgroup$ – Todd Trimble Aug 13 '18 at 18:22

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