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Hans Lewy

Birthplace: Wrocław, Wrocław, Dolnośląskie, Poland
Death: Died in Berkeley, Alameda, California, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Max Lewy and Margaret Lewy
Husband of <private> Lewy (Crosby)
Father of <private> Lewy
Brother of <private> Lewy

Managed by: Martin Severin Eriksen
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

    • <private> Lewy (Crosby)
    • <private> Lewy
    • father
    • mother
    • <private> Lewy

About Hans Lewy

Hans Lewy (20 October 1904 – 23 August 1988) was a German born American mathematician, known for his work on partial differential equations and on the theory of functions of several complex variables.


Lewy was born in Breslau, Germany (now Wrocław, Poland), on October 20, 1904. He began his studies at the University of Göttingen in 1922, after being advised to avoid the more local University of Breslau because it was too old-fashioned, supporting himself during the Weimar hyperinflation by a side job doing railroad track maintenance. At Göttingen, he studied both mathematics and physics; his teachers there included Max Born, Richard Courant, James Franck, David Hilbert, Edmund Landau, Emmy Noether, and Alexander Ostrowski. He earned his doctorate in 1926, at which time he and his friend Kurt Otto Friedrichs both became assistants to Courant and privatdozents at Göttingen.

At the recommendation of Courant, Lewy was granted a Rockefeller Fellowship, which he used in 1929 to travel to Rome and study algebraic geometry with Tullio Levi-Civita and Federigo Enriques, and then in 1930 to travel to Paris, where he attended the seminar of Jacques Hadamard. After Hitler's election as chancellor in 1933, Lewy was advised by Herbert Busemann to leave Germany again. He was offered a position in Madrid, but declined it, fearing for the future there under Francisco Franco. He revisited Italy and France, but then at the invitation of the Emergency Committee in Aid of Displaced Foreign Scholars and with the assistance of Hadamard found a two-year position in America at Brown University. At the end of that term, in 1935, he moved to the University of California, Berkeley.

During World War II, Lewy obtained a pilot's license, but then worked at the Aberdeen Proving Ground. He married Helen Crosby in 1947.

In 1950, Lewy was fired from Berkeley for refusing to sign a loyalty oath. He taught at Harvard University and Stanford University in 1952 and 1953[5] before being reinstated by the California Supreme Court case Tolman v. Underhill.

He retired from Berkeley in 1972, and in 1973 became one of two Ordway Professors of Mathematics at the University of Minnesota. He died on August 23, 1988, in Berkeley.

Awards and honors

Lewy was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1964, and was also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.[6] He became a foreign member of the Accademia dei Lincei in 1972.[5] He was awarded a Leroy P. Steele Prize in 1979,[5] and a Wolf Prize in Mathematics in 1986 for his work on partial differential equations. In 1986, the University of Bonn gave him an honorary doctorate.

Dr. Hans Lewy, 83, Mathematics Profesor Published: September 2, 1988

Hans Lewy, a professor emeritus of mathematics at the University of California at Berkeley, died of leukemia Aug. 23 in Berkeley, where he lived. He was 83 years old.

Dr. Lewy, a native of Breslau, Germany, received a doctorate in mathematics at the age of 22 from the University of Gottingen. He came to the United States when the Nazis came to power in 1933 and joined the faculty at Berkeley in 1935.

In 1950, Dr. Lewy, along with several other tenured professors at Berkeley, refused to sign a loyalty oath required by the university's board of trustees, and he was discharged. He was reinstated when the courts ruled that the oath violated the professors' civil rights.

Dr. Lewy retired in 1972 but continued to lecture at Berkeley until 10 weeks before his death. His work in differential equations contributed to the development of high-speed computers. He was also prominent in the fields of geometry, analysis and hydrodynamics.

He was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and in 1964 was elected to the National Academy of Sciences. He received the American Mathematical Society's Steele Prize in 1979 and the Wolf Foundation Award in Mathematics, an international prize established in Israel, in 1985.

He is survived by his wife, the former Helen Crosby; a son, Michael, of Manhattan, and a brother, Rudolph, of Haifa, Israel.

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Hans Lewy's Timeline

October 20, 1904
Wrocław, Wrocław, Dolnośląskie, Poland
August 23, 1988
Age 83
Berkeley, Alameda, California, United States