Erich Rothe

21st July 1895 to 19th February 1988

Erich Rothe, signature, University of Breslau, 31st July 1934

German mathematician Erich Rothe first studied in Munich. His work was interrupted for military service in the First World War, during which he was wounded at Verdun. In the post-War period Rothe obtained his PhD in 1926 (‘On some analogies between linear partial and linear ordinary differential equations’) under the supervision of  Erhard Schmidt and Richard Edler von Mises.

According to Wikipedia, Rothe obtained his first post at Breslau in 1928; however, he does not appear in the index of the Breslau handbook for 1930-1931, so Wiki may be incorrect, or it may be because he was a junior staff member and not listed. He worked at the university until 1935, when he was dismissed ‘because’ he was Jewish. I have found no explanation as to how he was able to continue to work there after 1933, but he is listed in the 1935 handbook.

Erich Rothe, University of Breslau handbook, mathematics and astronomy, 1935

(As an aside, there is no reason for this page to be headed ‘Philosophy faculty’: Rothe’s listing is under the main heading of mathematics and astronomy. By this date, however (Summer 1935), the page numbering in the handbook is also incorrect when compared to the index entries. I like to think it might be because they had sacked so many administrative staff by this date who actually knew what they were doing …)

Around this time Rothe was also teaching Algebra II, on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, from 11am to 12pm. Finally in the handbook for 1935-1936, Rothe’s address is given in the following extract, with a map to locate the street shown below.

Erich Rothe, University of Breslau handbook, summer 1935
Strenstraße, Breslau, 1931 Source: fotopolska.eu

Rothe moved to the USA in 1937, where he mainly worked at the University of Michigan as an associate professor until retirement.

Colleague Lamberto Cesari wrote a moving obituary on Rothe’s death, which concluded as follows:

“The time span of the dates of his publications is indicative of Erich Rothe’s long and active professional life. They extend from his first book, The Differential and Integral Equations of Mechanics and Physics (1924) of which he was an associate author, and his concluding book, Introduction to Various Aspects of Degree Theory in Banach Spaces which he wrote at the age of 90 and which was published by the American Mathematical Society in 1986 when he was 91. He was the author of over 50 scientific papers in many different fields: linear and nonlinear functional analysis, real analysis, aspects of the calculus of variations, and theory of partial differential equations. A result of Rothe’s in functional analysis in 1937 has been widely applied in the calculus of variations and partial differential equations. Possibly his most important work possibly concerns the degree theory in Banadh spaces, which was the topic of his last book and for which he presented a direct approach, avoiding the passage to the limit from finite dimensional to Banach spaces. As a testimonial of esteem, a number of mathematicians contributed to a volume Nonlinear Analysis which was presented to Erich in 1978.

Through his papers, his lectures, and his work with graduate students, Erich Rothe left a profound impression in his field. His charming manners, his broad education, his compassionate understanding in matters of the world, earned him many friends”.


All black and white extracts on this page are from the 'Vorlesungs und Personal Verzeichnis der Schlesischen Friedrich Wilhelms Universität zu Breslau 1935/1936', available online at the University of Wrocław.

The map extract is from the excellent fotopolska.eu.