The last mathematician from Hilbert’s Göttingen: Saunders Mac Lane as philosopher of mathematics. (English) Zbl 1122.01017

Saunders Mac Lane is well known for the invention of category theory (together with Eilenberg). In the present paper the author shows that Mac Lane’s vision of a large-scale organisation of mathematics grew during his time in ‘Hilbert’s Göttingen’. Mac Lane studied for his D.Phil.in Göttingen, heard lectures by Hilbert, studied with Moritz Geiger and talked philosophy with Hermann Weyl. When Emmy Noether’s ‘abstract algebra’ came to life he intertwined the philosophy of mathematics he learned in Göttingen with the ideas leading to abstract algebra and laid the foundations of category theory. In this sense Mac Lane surely is ’the last mathematician from Hilbert’s Göttingen’.


01A70 Biographies, obituaries, personalia, bibliographies
01A60 History of mathematics in the 20th century
00A30 Philosophy of mathematics
18-03 History of category theory

Biographic References:

Mac Lane, Saunders
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