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Heinz Wilhelm Hopf

Also Known As: "Heinrich"
Birthdate: (76)
Birthplace: Grabiszyn, Wrocław, Śląskie, Poland
Death: Died in Zollikon, Meilen, Zürich, Switzerland
Immediate Family:

Son of Wilhelm Hopf and Elisabeth Hopf (Kirchner)
Husband of Anna Marie Hopf
Brother of Hedwig Brinckmann / Lachmann

Occupation: matemaatik, filosoofia dr.
Managed by: Elle Kiiker
Last Updated:

About Heinz Hopf

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Heinz Hopf (19 November 1894 – 3 June 1971) is considered one of the greatest mathematicians of the 20th century.

Hopf was born in Gräbschen, Germany (now Grabiszyn, part of Wrocław, Poland), the son of Elizabeth (née Kirchner) and Wilhelm Hopf. His father was born Jewish and converted to Protestantism a year after Heinz was born; his mother was from a Protestant family.

Hopf attended Dr. Karl Mittelhaus' higher boys' school from 1901 to 1904, and then entered the König-Wilhelm- Gymnasium in Breslau. He showed mathematical talent from an early age. In 1913 he entered the Silesian Friedrich Wilhelm University where he attended lectures by Ernst Steinitz, Kneser, Max Dehn, Erhard Schmidt, and Rudolf Sturm. When World War I broke out in 1914, Hopf eagerly enlisted. He was wounded twice and received the iron cross (first class) in 1918.

In 1920, Hopf moved to Berlin to continue his mathematical education. He studied under Ludwig Bieberbach, receiving his doctorate in 1925. In his dissertation, Connections between topology and metric of manifolds (German Über Zusammenhänge zwischen Topologie und Metrik von Mannigfaltigkeiten), he proved that any simply connected complete Riemannian 3-manifold of constant sectional curvature is globally isometric to Euclidean, spherical, or hyperbolic space. He also studied the indices of zeros of vector fields on hypersurfaces, and connected their sum to curvature. Some six months later he gave a new proof that the sum of the indices of the zeros of a vector field on a manifold is independent of the choice of vector field and equal to the Euler characteristic of the manifold. This theorem is now called the Poincaré-Hopf theorem.

Hopf spent the year after his doctorate at Göttingen, where David Hilbert, Richard Courant, Carl Runge, and Emmy Noether were working. While there he met Paul Alexandrov and began a lifelong friendship.

In 1926 Hopf moved back to Berlin, where he gave a course in combinatorial topology. He spent the academic year 1927/28 at Princeton University on a Rockefeller fellowship with Alexandrov. Solomon Lefschetz, Oswald Veblen and J. W. Alexander were all at Princeton at the time. At this time Hopf discovered the Hopf invariant of maps S^3 \to S^2. and proved that the Hopf fibration has invariant 1. In the summer of 1928 Hopf returned to Berlin and began working with Alexandrov, at the suggestion of Courant, on a book on topology. Three volumes were planned, but only one was finished. It was published in 1935.

In October 1928 Hopf married Anja von Mickwitz (1891–1967). The next year he declined a job offer from Princeton. In 1931 Hopf took Hermann Weyl's position at ETH, in Zürich.

Hopf received another invitation to Princeton in 1940, but he declined it. Two years later, however, he was forced to file for Swiss citizenship after his property was confiscated by the Nazis, his father's conversion to Christianity having failed to convince German authorities that he was an "Aryan."

In 1946/47 and 1955/56 Hopf visited the United States, staying at Princeton and giving lectures at New York University and Stanford University. He served as president of the International Mathematical Union from 1955 to 1958. He received honorary doctorates from Princeton, Freiburg i. Br., Manchester, Sorbonne at Paris, Brussels, and Lausanne.

In memory of Hopf, ETH Zürich awards the Heinz Hopf Prize for outstanding scientific work in the field of pure mathematics.


Hopf algebra:

Hopf fibration:

Hopf invariant:


Hopf Solitron:

Hopf Map:

Quantum Group (a type of Hopf algebra):

Poincaré–Hopf theorem:

Hopf-Rinow theorem:

Hopf Manifold:

Hopf Surface:

Hopf Link:

Hopf theorem:


Preface from the Collected Papers of Heinz Hopf:


Hopf was first cousins with physicist Ludwig Hopf, an assistant to and collaborator with Albert Einstein, and first cousin once removed with composer Franz Reizenstein.

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Heinz Hopf's Timeline

November 19, 1894
Grabiszyn, Wrocław, Śląskie, Poland
June 3, 1971
Age 76
Zollikon, Meilen, Zürich, Switzerland