Thursday, August 30, 2007

Gödel and Brno

I went to Brno yesterday to meet with Good Data's back-end engineering team. As I was driving past Gödel's childhood home I realized I did not know anything about his life in this city. And here is what I found on Wikipedia:


Kurt Friedrich Gödel was born April 28, 1906, in Brno (German: Brünn), Moravia, Austria-Hungary (now the Czech Republic) into the ethnic German family of Rudolf Gödel, the manager of a textile factory, and Marianne Gödel (born Handschuh). At the time of his birth the town had a slight German-speaking majority and this was the language of his parents.

He automatically became a Czechoslovak citizen at age 12 when the Austro-Hungarian empire broke up at the end of World War I. He later told his biographer John D. Dawson that he felt like an "exiled Austrian in Czechoslovakia" ("ein österreichischer Verbannter in Tschechoslowakien") during this time. He was never able to speak Czech and refused to learn it at school. He became an Austrian citizen by choice at age 23. When Nazi Germany annexed Austria, Gödel automatically became a German citizen at age 32. After World War II, at the age of 42, he became an American citizen.

In his family, young Kurt was known as Der Herr Warum ("Mr. Why") because of his insatiable curiosity. According to his brother Rudolf, at the age of six or seven Kurt suffered from rheumatic fever; he completely recovered, but for the rest of his life he remained convinced that his heart had suffered permanent damage.

He attended German language primary and secondary school in Brno and completed them with honors in 1923. Although Kurt had first excelled in languages, he later became more interested in history and mathematics. His interest in mathematics increased when in 1920 his older brother Rudolf (born 1902) left for Vienna to go to medical school at the University of Vienna (UV). During his teens, Kurt studied Gabelsberger shorthand, Goethe's Theory of Colours and criticisms of Isaac Newton, and the writings of Immanuel Kant.


For those who want to read more about Kurt Gödel I recommend these two books: Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid and A World Without Time: The Forgotten Legacy Of Godel And Einstein

2 comments:

svedek said...

Wow, so the Good Data team will be partially located here :) Good luck and if you happen to have a free while next time, would love to invite you for a drink.

Kris Tuttle said...

Two other books that are great if you want to get deeper into Godel are:

Godel's Proof by Ernest Nagel and
Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Godel by Rebecca Goldstein.

The Goldstein book is pretty easy to read and follow. The Nagel work is a classic and is the best way to actually go through the entire proof but it requires some concentration.