- Georg Cantor
Infobox Scientist

name = Georg Ferdinand Ludwig Cantor

image_width=225px

caption =

birth_date = birth date|1845|3|3

birth_place =Saint Petersburg ,Russia

death_date = death date and age|1918|1|6|1845|3|3

death_place = Halle,Germany

residence =Russia (1845–1856),Germany (1856–1918)

citizenship =

ethnicity =

field =Mathematics

work_institutions = University of Halle

alma_mater =ETH Zurich , University of Berlin

doctoral_advisor =Ernst Kummer Karl Weierstrass

doctoral_students =Alfred Barneck

known_for =Set theory

religion =Lutheran

prizes =**Georg Ferdinand Ludwig Philipp Cantor**(OldStyleDate|3 March|1845|19 February [*Grattan-Guinness 2000, p. 351*] –January 6 1918 ) was a Germanmathematician , born inRussia . He is best known as the creator ofset theory , which has become a fundamental theory in mathematics. Cantor established the importance ofone-to-one correspondence between sets, defined infinite and well-ordered sets, and proved that thereal number s are "more numerous" than thenatural number s. In fact,Cantor's theorem implies the existence of an "infinity of infinities". He defined the cardinal and ordinal numbers, and their arithmetic. Cantor's work is of great philosophical interest, a fact of which he was well aware. [*The biographical material in this article is mostly drawn from Dauben 1979. Grattan-Guinness 1971, and Purkert and Ilgauds 1985 are useful additional sources.*]Cantor's theory of

transfinite number s was originally regarded as so counter-intuitive—even shocking—that it encountered resistance from mathematical contemporaries such asLeopold Kronecker andHenri Poincaré [*Dauben 2004, p. 1.*] and later fromHermann Weyl and L. E. J. Brouwer, whileLudwig Wittgenstein raised philosophical objections. Some Christian theologians (particularly neo-Scholastics) saw Cantor's work as a challenge to the uniqueness of the absolute infinity in the nature ofGod ,Dauben, 1977, p. 86; Dauben, 1979, pp. 120 & 143.] on one occasion equating the theory of transfinite numbers withpantheism . The objections to his work were occasionally fierce: Poincaré referred to Cantor's ideas as a "grave disease" infecting the discipline ofmathematics ,Dauben 1979, p. 266.] and Kronecker's public opposition and personal attacks included describing Cantor as a "scientific charlatan", a "renegade" and a "corrupter of youth." [*Dauben 2004, p. 1. See also Dauben 1977, p. 89 "15n."*] Writing decades after Cantor's death, Wittgenstein lamented that mathematics is "ridden through and through with the pernicious idioms of set theory," which he dismissed as "utter nonsense" that is "laughable" and "wrong". Cantor's recurring bouts of depression from 1884 to the end of his life were once blamed on the hostile attitude of many of his contemporaries,Dauben 1979, p. 280:"…the tradition made popular by[ Arthur Moritz Schönflies ] blamed Kronecker's persistent criticism and Cantor's inability to confirm his continuum hypothesis" for Cantor's recurring bouts of depression.] but these episodes can now be seen as probable manifestations of abipolar disorder .Dauben 2004, p. 1. Text includes a 1964 quote from psychiatrist Karl Pollitt, one of Cantor's examining physicians at Halle Nervenklinik, referring to Cantor'smental illness as "cyclic manic-depression".]The harsh criticism has been matched by international accolades. In 1904, the

Royal Society awarded Cantor itsSylvester Medal , the highest honor it can confer. Cantor believed his theory of transfinite numbers had been communicated to him by God.Dauben 2004, pp. 8, 11 & 12-13.]David Hilbert defended it from its critics by famously declaring: "No one shall expel us from the Paradise that Cantor has created." [*Hilbert 1926; see Reid 1996, p. 177*]**Life****Youth and studies**Cantor was born in 1845 in the Western merchant colony in

Saint Petersburg ,Russia , and brought up in the city until he was eleven. Georg, the eldest of six children, was an outstandingviolin ist, having inherited his parents' considerable musical and artistic talents. Cantor's father had been a member of the Saint Petersburg stock exchange; when he became ill, the family moved to Germany in 1856, first toWiesbaden then toFrankfurt , seeking winters milder than those of Saint Petersburg. In 1860, Cantor graduated with distinction from the Realschule inDarmstadt ; his exceptional skills in mathematics,trigonometry in particular, were noted. In 1862, Cantor entered theFederal Polytechnic Institute inZürich , today theETH Zurich . After receiving a substantial inheritance upon his father's death in 1863, Cantor shifted his studies to the University of Berlin, attending lectures byLeopold Kronecker ,Karl Weierstrass andErnst Kummer . He spent the summer of 1866 at the University of Göttingen, then and later a very important center for mathematical research. In 1867, Berlin granted him the PhD for athesis onnumber theory , "De aequationibus secundi gradus indeterminatis".**Teacher and researcher**After teaching briefly in a Berlin girls' school, Cantor took up a position at the University of Halle, where he spent his entire career. He was awarded the requisite

habilitation for his thesis on number theory.In 1874, Cantor married Vally Guttmann. They had six children, the last born in 1886. Cantor was able to support a family despite modest academic pay, thanks to his inheritance from his father. During his honeymoon in the Harz mountains, Cantor spent much time in mathematical discussions with

Richard Dedekind , whom he befriended two years earlier while on Swiss holiday.Cantor was promoted to Extraordinary Professor in 1872, and made full Professor in 1879. To attain the latter rank at the age of 34 was a notable accomplishment, but Cantor desired a chair at a more prestigious university, in particular at Berlin, then the leading German university. However, his work encountered too much opposition for that to be possible.Dauben 1979, p. 163.] Kronecker, who headed mathematics at Berlin until his death in 1891, became increasingly uncomfortable with the prospect of having Cantor as a colleague,Dauben 1979, p. 34.] perceiving him as a "corrupter of youth" for teaching his ideas to a younger generation of mathematicians. [

*Dauben 1977, p. 89 "15n."*] Worse yet, Kronecker, a well-established figure within the mathematical community and Cantor's former professor, fundamentally disagreed with the thrust of Cantor's work. Kronecker, now seen as one of the founders of the constructive viewpoint in mathematics, disliked much of Cantor's set theory because it asserted the existence of sets satisfying certain properties, without giving specific examples of sets whose members did indeed satisfy those properties. Cantor came to believe that Kronecker's stance would make it impossible for Cantor to ever leave Halle.In 1881, Cantor's Halle colleague

Eduard Heine died, creating a vacant chair. Halle accepted Cantor's suggestion that it be offered to Dedekind,Heinrich M. Weber andFranz Mertens , in that order, but each declined the chair after being offered it. Friedrich Wangerin was eventually appointed, but he was never close to Cantor.In 1882 the mathematical correspondence between Cantor and Dedekind came to an end, apparently as a result of Dedekind's refusal to accept the chair at Halle. [

*Dauben 1979, pp. 2–3; Grattan-Guinness 1971, pp. 354–355.*] Cantor also began another important correspondence, withGösta Mittag-Leffler in Sweden, and soon began to publish in Mittag-Leffler's journal "Acta Mathematica". But in 1885, Mittag-Leffler was concerned about the philosophical nature and new terminology in a paper Cantor had submitted to "Acta".Dauben 1979, p. 138.] He asked Cantor to withdraw the paper from "Acta" while it was in proof, writing that it was "… about one hundred years too soon." Cantor complied, but wrote to a third party:Cantor then sharply curtailed his relationship and correspondence with Mittag-Leffler, displaying a tendency to interpret well-intentioned criticism as a deeply personal affront.

Cantor suffered his first known bout of depression in 1884. Criticism of his work weighed on his mind: every one of the fifty-two letters he wrote to Mittag-Leffler in 1884 attacked Kronecker. A passage from one of these letters is revealing of the damage to Cantor's self-confidence:

This emotional crisis led him to apply to lecture on

philosophy rather than mathematics. He also began an intense study ofElizabethan literature in an attempt to prove thatFrancis Bacon wrote the plays attributed to Shakespeare (seeShakespearean authorship question ); this ultimately resulted in two pamphlets, published in 1896 and 1897. [*Dauben 1979, pp. 281–283.*]Cantor recovered soon thereafter, and subsequently made further important contributions, including his famous diagonal argument and theorem. However, he never again attained the high level of his remarkable papers of 1874–1884. He eventually sought a reconciliation with Kronecker, which Kronecker graciously accepted. Nevertheless, the philosophical disagreements and difficulties dividing them persisted. It was once thought that Cantor's recurring bouts of depression were triggered by the opposition his work met at the hands of Kronecker. While Cantor's mathematical worries and his difficulties dealing with certain people were greatly magnified by his depression, it is doubtful that they were its cause. Rather, his posthumous diagnosis of bipolarity has been accepted as the

root cause of his erratic mood.In 1890, Cantor was instrumental in founding the "

Deutsche Mathematiker-Vereinigung " and chaired its first meeting in Halle in 1891; his reputation was strong enough, despite Kronecker's opposition to his work, to ensure he was elected as the first president of this society. Setting aside the animosity he felt towards Kronecker, Cantor invited him to address the meeting, but Kronecker was unable to do so because his spouse was dying at the time.**Late years**After Cantor's 1884 hospitalization, there is no record that he was in any

sanatorium again until 1899.Dauben 1979, p. 282.] Soon after that second hospitalization, Cantor's youngest son died suddenly (while Cantor was delivering a lecture on his views onBaconian theory andWilliam Shakespeare ), and this tragedy drained Cantor of much of his passion for mathematics.Dauben 1979, p. 283.] Cantor was again hospitalized in 1903. One year later, he was outraged and agitated by a paper presented byJulius König at the ThirdInternational Congress of Mathematicians . The paper attempted to prove that the basic tenets of transfinite set theory were false. Since it had been read in front of his daughters and colleagues, Cantor perceived himself as having been publicly humiliated. [*For a discussion of König's paper see Dauben 1979, 248–250. For Cantor's reaction, see Dauben 1979, p. 248; 283.*] AlthoughErnst Zermelo demonstrated less than a day later that König's proof had failed, Cantor remained shaken, even momentarily questioning God.Dauben 1979, p. 248] Cantor suffered from chronic depression for the rest of his life, for which he was excused from teaching on several occasions and repeatedly confined in various sanatoria. The events of 1904 preceded a series of hospitalizations at intervals of two or three years. [*Dauben 1979, p. 283–284.*] He did not abandon mathematics completely, however, lecturing on the paradoxes of set theory (Burali-Forti paradox ,Cantor's paradox , andRussell's paradox ) to a meeting of the "Deutsche Mathematiker–Vereinigung" in 1903, and attending the International Congress of Mathematicians at Heidelberg in 1904.In 1911, Cantor was one of the distinguished foreign scholars invited to attend the 500th anniversary of the founding of the

University of St. Andrews inScotland . Cantor attended, hoping to meetBertrand Russell , whose newly published "Principia Mathematica " repeatedly cited Cantor's work, but this did not come about. The following year, St. Andrews awarded Cantor an honorary doctorate, but illness precluded his receiving the degree in person.Cantor retired in 1913, and suffered from poverty, even malnourishment, during

World War I .Dauben 1979, p. 284.] The public celebration of his 70th birthday was canceled because of the war. He died onJanuary 6 1918 in the sanatorium where he had spent the final year of his life.**Mathematical work**Cantor's work between 1874 and 1884 is the origin of

set theory .Johnson 1972, p. 55.] Prior to this work, the concept of a set was a rather elementary one that had been used implicitly since the beginnings of mathematics, dating back to the ideas ofAristotle .This paragraph is a highly abbreviated summary of the impact of Cantor's lifetime of work. More details and references can be found later.] No one had realized that set theory had any nontrivial content: Before Cantor, there were only finite sets (which are easy to understand) and "the infinite" (which was considered a topic for philosophical, rather than mathematical, discussion). By proving that there are (infinitely) many possible sizes for infinite sets, Cantor established that set theory was not trivial, and it needed to be studied. Set theory has come to play the role of a foundational theory in modern mathematics, in the sense that it interprets propositions about mathematical objects (for example, numbers and functions) from all the traditional areas of mathematics (such asalgebra , analysis andtopology ) in a single theory, and provides a standard set of axioms to prove or disprove them. The basic concepts of set theory are now used throughout mathematics.In one of his earliest papers, Cantor proved that the set of

real number s is "more numerous" than the set ofnatural number s; this showed, for the first time, that there exist infinite sets of different sizes. He was also the first to appreciate the importance ofone-to-one correspondence s (hereinafter denoted "1-to-1") in set theory. He used this concept to define finite andinfinite set s, subdividing the latter into denumerable (or countably infinite) sets anduncountable set s (nondenumerable infinite sets). [*A*]countable set is a set which is either finite or denumerable; the denumerable sets are therefore the infinite countable sets. However, this terminology is not universally followed, and sometimes "denumerable" is used as a synonym for "countable".Cantor introduced fundamental constructions in set theory, such as the

power set of a set "A", which is the set of all possiblesubset s of "A". He later proved that the size of the power set of "A" is strictly larger than the size of "A", even when "A" is an infinite set; this result soon became known asCantor's theorem . Cantor developed an entire theory and arithmetic of infinite sets, called cardinals and ordinals, which extended the arithmetic of the natural numbers. His notation for the cardinal numbers was the Hebrew letter $aleph$ (aleph) with a natural number subscript; for the ordinals he employed the Greek letter ω (omega ). This notation is still in use today.The "

Continuum hypothesis ", introduced by Cantor, was presented byDavid Hilbert as the first of his twenty-three open problems in his famous address at the 1900International Congress of Mathematicians inParis . Cantor's work also attracted favorable notice beyond Hilbert's celebrated encomium.Reid 1996, p. 177.] The US philosopherCharles Peirce praised Cantor's set theory, and, following public lectures delivered by Cantor at the first International Congress of Mathematicians, held in Zurich in 1897, Hurwitz and Hadamard also both expressed their admiration. At that Congress, Cantor renewed his friendship and correspondence with Dedekind. From 1905, Cantor corresponded with his British admirer and translatorPhilip Jourdain on the history ofset theory and on Cantor's religious ideas. This was later published, as were several of his expository works.**Number theory and function theory**Cantor's first ten papers were on

number theory , his thesis topic. At the suggestion ofEduard Heine , the Professor at Halle, Cantor turned to analysis. Heine proposed that Cantor solve an open problem that had eluded Dirichlet, Lipschitz,Bernhard Riemann , and Heine himself: the uniqueness of the representation of a function bytrigonometric series . Cantor solved this difficult problem in 1869. Between 1870 and 1872, Cantor published more papers on trigonometric series, including one definingirrational number s as convergent sequences ofrational number s. Dedekind, whom Cantor befriended in 1872, cited this paper later that year, in the paper where he first set out his celebrated definition of real numbers byDedekind cut s.**et theory**The beginning of set theory as a branch of mathematics is often marked by the publication of Cantor's 1874 paper, "Über eine Eigenschaft des Imbegriffes aller reellen algebraischen Zahlen" ("On a Characteristic Property of All Real Algebraic Numbers"). The paper, published in

Crelle's Journal thanks to Dedekind's support (and despite Kronecker's opposition), was the first to formulate a mathematically rigorous proof that there was more than one kind of infinity. This demonstration is a centerpiece of his legacy as a mathematician, helping lay the groundwork for both calculus and the analysis of the continuum of real numbers. [*Moore 1995, pp. 112 & 114; Dauben 2004, p. 1.*] Previously, all infinite collections had been implicitly assumed to be equinumerous (that is, of "the same size" or having the same number of elements). [*For example, geometric problems posed by Galileo and*] He then proved that the real numbers were not countable, albeit employing a proof more complex than the remarkably elegant and justly celebrated diagonal argument he set out in 1891. [John Duns Scotus suggested that all infinite sets were equinumerous — see Moore 1995, p. 114.*For this, and more information on the mathematical importance of Cartan's work on set theory, see e.g., Suppes 1972.*] Prior to this, he had already proven that the set ofrational number s is countable.Joseph Liouville had established the existence oftranscendental number s in 1851, and Cantor's paper established that the set of transcendental numbers is uncountable. The logic is as follows: Cantor had shown that the union of two countable sets must be countable. The set of all real numbers is equal to the union of the set of algebraic numbers with the set of transcendental numbers (that is, every real number must be either algebraic or transcendental). The 1874 paper showed that thealgebraic number s (that is, theroot s ofpolynomial equations withinteger coefficient s), were countable. In contrast, Cantor had also just shown that thereal number s were "not" countable. If transcendental numbers were countable, then the result of their union with algebraic numbers would also be countable. Since their union (which equals the set of all real numbers) is "uncountable", it logically follows that the transcendentals must be uncountable. The transcendentals have the same "power" (see below) as the reals, and "almost all" real numbers must be transcendental. Cantor remarked that he had effectively reproved a theorem, due to Liouville, to the effect that there are infinitely many transcendental numbers in each interval.Between 1879 and 1884, Cantor published a series of six articles in "

Mathematische Annalen " that together formed an introduction to his set theory. At the same time, there was growing opposition to Cantor's ideas, led by Kronecker, who admitted mathematical concepts only if they could be constructed in a finite number of steps from the natural numbers, which he took as intuitively given. For Kronecker, Cantor's hierarchy of infinities was inadmissible, since accepting the concept ofactual infinity would open the door to paradoxes which would challenge the validity of mathematics as a whole.Dauben 1977, p. 89.] Cantor also discovered theCantor set during this period.The fifth paper in this series, "Grundlagen einer allgemeinen Mannigfaltigkeitslehre" ("Foundations of a General Theory of Aggregates"), published in 1883, was the most important of the six and was also published as a separate

monograph . It contained Cantor's reply to his critics and showed how thetransfinite number s were a systematic extension of the natural numbers. It begins by definingwell-order ed sets.Ordinal number s are then introduced as the order types of well-ordered sets. Cantor then defines the addition and multiplication of the cardinal and ordinal numbers. In 1885, Cantor extended his theory of order types so that the ordinal numbers simply became a special case of order types.In 1891, he published a paper containing his elegant "diagonal argument" for the existence of an uncountable set. He applied the same idea to prove

Cantor's theorem : thecardinality of the power set of a set "A" is strictly larger than the cardinality of "A". This established the richness of the hierarchy of infinite sets, and of the cardinal andordinal arithmetic that Cantor had defined. His argument is fundamental in the solution of theHalting problem and the proof ofGödel's first incompleteness theorem .In 1895 and 1897, Cantor published a two-part paper in "

Mathematische Annalen " underFelix Klein 's editorship; these were his last significant papers on set theory. [*The English translation is Cantor 1955.*] The first paper begins by defining set,subset , etc., in ways that would be largely acceptable now. The cardinal and ordinal arithmetic are reviewed. Cantor wanted the second paper to include a proof of the continuum hypothesis, but had to settle for expositing his theory ofwell-ordered set s and ordinal numbers. Cantor attempts to prove that if "A" and "B" are sets with "A" equivalent to a subset of "B" and "B" equivalent to a subset of "A", then "A" and "B" are equivalent.Ernst Schröder had stated this theorem a bit earlier, but his proof, as well as Cantor's, was flawed.Felix Bernstein supplied a correct proof in his 1898 PhD thesis; hence the nameCantor–Bernstein–Schroeder theorem .**One-to-one correspondence**Cantor's 1874 Crelle paper was the first to invoke the notion of a 1-to-1 correspondence, though he did not use that phrase. He then began looking for a 1-to-1 correspondence between the points of the

unit square and the points of a unitline segment . In an 1877 letter to Dedekind, Cantor proved a far result: for any positive integer "n", there exists a 1-to-1 correspondence between the points on the unit line segment and all of the points in an "n"-dimensional space. About this discovery Cantor famously wrote to Dedekind: "Je le vois, mais je ne le crois pas"!" ("I see it, but I don't believe it!") [*Wallace 2003, p. 259.*] The result that he found so astonishing has implications for geometry and the notion ofdimension .In 1878, Cantor submitted another paper to Crelle's Journal, in which he defined precisely the concept of a 1-to-1 correspondence, and introduced the notion of "power" (a term he took from

Jakob Steiner ) or "equivalence" of sets: two sets are equivalent (have the same power) if there exists a 1-to-1 correspondence between them. Cantor definedcountable set s (or denumerable sets) as sets which can be put into a 1-to-1 correspondence with thenatural number s, and proved that the rational numbers are denumerable. He also proved that "n"-dimensionalEuclidean space **R**^{"n"}has the same power as thereal number s**R**, as does a countably infinite product of copies of**R**. While he made free use of countability as a concept, he did not write the word "countable" until 1883. Cantor also discussed his thinking aboutdimension , stressing that his mapping between theunit interval and the unit square was not a continuous one.This paper, like the 1874 paper, displeased Kronecker, and Cantor wanted to withdraw it; however, Dedekind persuaded him not to do so and Weierstrass also supported its publication. [

*Dauben 1979, p. 69; 324 "63n." The paper had been submitted in July 1877. Dedekind supported it, but delayed its publication due to Kronecker's opposition. Weierstrass actively supported it.*] Nevertheless, Cantor never again submitted anything to Crelle.**Continuum hypothesis**Cantor was the first to formulate what later came to be known as the

continuum hypothesis or CH: there exists no set whose power is greater than that of the naturals and less than that of the reals (or equivalently, the cardinality of the reals is "exactly" aleph-one, rather than just "at least" aleph-one). Cantor believed the continuum hypothesis to be true and tried for many years to prove it, in vain. His inability to prove the continuum hypothesis caused him considerable anxiety.The difficulty Cantor had in proving the continuum hypothesis has been underscored by later developments in the field of mathematics: a 1940 result by Gödel and a 1963 one by Paul Cohen together imply that the continuum hypothesis can neither be proved nor disproved using standard

Zermelo–Fraenkel set theory plus theaxiom of choice (the combination referred to as "ZFC"). [*Some mathematicians consider these results to have settled the issue, and, at most, allow that it is possible to examine the formal consequences of CH or of its negation, or of axioms that imply one of those. Others continue to look for "natural" or "plausible" axioms that, when added to ZFC, will permit either a proof or refutation of CH, or even for direct evidence for or against CH itself; among the most prominent of these is*]W. Hugh Woodin . One of Gödel's last papers argues that the CH is false, and the continuum has cardinality Aleph-2.**Paradoxes of set theory**Discussions of set-theoretic

paradox es began to appear around the end of the nineteenth century. Some of these implied fundamental problems with Cantor's set theory program. [*Dauben 1979, pp. 240–270; see especially pp. 241 & 259.*] In an 1897 paper on an unrelated topic,Cesare Burali-Forti set out the first such paradox, theBurali-Forti paradox : theordinal number of the set of all ordinals must be an ordinal and this leads to a contradiction. Cantor discovered this paradox in 1895, and described it in an 1896 letter to Hilbert. Criticism mounted to the point where Cantor launched counter-arguments in 1903, intended to defend the basic tenets of his set theory.Dauben 1979, p. 248.]In 1899, Cantor discovered his eponymous paradox: what is the cardinal number of the set of all sets? Clearly it must be the greatest possible cardinal. Yet for any set "A", the cardinal number of the power set of "A" is strictly larger than the cardinal number of "A" (this fact is now known as

Cantor's theorem ). This paradox, together with Burali-Forti's, led Cantor to formulate a concept called "limitation of size ", [*Hallett 1986.*] according to which the collection of all ordinals, or of all sets, was an "inconsistent multiplicity" that was "too large" to be a set. Such collections later became known as proper classes.One common view among mathematicians is that these paradoxes, together with

Russell's paradox , demonstrate that it is not possible to take a "naive", or non-axiomatic, approach to set theory without risking contradiction, and it is certain that they were among the motivations for Zermelo and others to produce axiomatizations of set theory. Others note, however, that the paradoxes do not obtain in an informal view motivated by the iterative hierarchy, which can be seen as explaining the idea of limitation of size. Some also question whether the Fregean formulation ofnaive set theory (which was the system directly refuted by the Russell paradox) is really a faithful interpretation of the Cantorian conception. [*Weir 1998, p. 766: "…it may well be seriously mistaken to think of Cantor's "Mengenlehre" [set theory] as naive…"*]**Philosophy, religion and Cantor's mathematics**The concept of the existence of an

actual infinity was an important shared concern within the realms of mathematics, philosophy and religion. Preserving theorthodoxy of the relationship between God and mathematics, although not in the same form as held by his critics, was long a concern of Cantor's.Dauben 1979, p. 295.] He directly addressed this intersection between these disciplines in the introduction to his "Grundlagen einer allgemeinen Mannigfaltigkeitslehre," where he stressed the connection between his view of the infinite and the philosophical one. [*Dauben, 1979, p. 120.*] To Cantor, his mathematical views were intrinsically linked to their philosophical and theological implications—he identified theAbsolute Infinite withGod , [*Hallett 1986, p. 13. Compare to the writings of*] and he considered his work on transfinite numbers to have been directly communicated to him by God, who had chosen Cantor to reveal them to the world.Thomas Aquinas .Debate among mathematicians grew out of opposing views in the

philosophy of mathematics regarding the nature of actual infinity. Some held to the view that infinity was an abstraction which was not mathematically legitimate, and denied its existence.Dauben 1979, p. 225] Mathematicians from three major schools of thought (constructivism and its two offshoots,intuitionism andfinitism ) opposed Cantor's theories in this matter. For constructivists such as Kronecker, this rejection of actual infinity stems from fundamental disagreement with the idea thatnonconstructive proof s such as Cantor's diagonal argument are sufficient proof that something exists, holding instead thatconstructive proof s are required. Intuitionism also rejects the idea that actual infinity is an expression of any sort of reality, but arrive at the decision via a different route than constructivism. Firstly, Cantor's argument rests on logic to prove the existence of transfinite numbers as an actual mathematical entity, whereas intuitionists hold that mathematical entities cannot be reduced to logical propositions, originating instead in the intuitions of the mind. Secondly, the notion of infinity as an expression of reality is itself disallowed in intuitionism, since the human mind cannot intuitively construct an infinite set. [*Snapper 1979, p. 3*] Mathematicians such as Brouwer and especially Poincaré adopted an intuitionist stance against Cantor's work. Citing the paradoxes of set theory as an example of its fundamentally flawed nature, Poincaré held that "most of the ideas of Cantorian set theory should be banished from mathematics once and for all." Finally, Wittgenstein's attacks were finitist: he believed that Cantor's diagonal argument conflated theintension of a set of cardinal or real numbers with its extension, thus conflating the concept of rules for generating a set with an actual set.Rodych 2007]Christian theologians saw Cantor's work as a challenge to the uniqueness of the absolute infinity in the nature of God. In particular, Neo-Thomist thinkers saw the existence of an actual infinity that consisted of something other than God as jeopardizing "God's exclusive claim to supreme infinity". [

*Davenport 1997, p.3*] Cantor strongly believed that this view was a misinterpretation of infinity, and was convinced that set theory could help correct this mistake:Cantor also believed that his theory of transfinite numbers ran counter to both

materialism anddeterminism —and was shocked when he realized that he was the only faculty member at Halle who did "not" hold to deterministic philosophical beliefs.Dauben 1979, p. 296.]In 1888, Cantor published his correspondence with several philosophers on the philosophical implications of his set theory. In an extensive attempt to persuade Christian thinkers and authorities to adopt his views, Cantor had corresponded with Christian philosophers such as

Tilman Pesch andJoseph Hontheim , [*Dauben, 1979, p. 144.*] as well as theologians such asCardinal Johannes Franzelin , who once replied by equating the theory of transfinite numbers withpantheism .Dauben, 1977, p. 102.] Cantor even sent one letter directly toPope Leo XIII himself, and addressed several pamphlets to him.Dauben, 1977, p. 85.]Cantor's philosophy on the nature of numbers led him to affirm a belief in the freedom of mathematics to posit and prove concepts apart from the realm of physical phenomena, as expressions within an internal reality. The only restrictions on this metaphysical system are that all mathematical concepts must be devoid of internal contradiction, and that they follow from existing definitions, axioms, and theorems. This belief is summarized in his famous assertion that "the essence of mathematics is its freedom." [

*Dauben 1977 pp. 91–93.*] These ideas parallel those ofEdmund Husserl . [*On Cantor, Husserl, and*]Gottlob Frege , see Hill and Rosado Haddock (2000).Cantor's 1883 paper reveals that he was well aware of the opposition his ideas were encountering:

Hence he devotes much space to justifying his earlier work, asserting that mathematical concepts may be freely introduced as long as they are free of

contradiction and defined in terms of previously accepted concepts. He also citesAristotle , Descartes, Berkeley, Leibniz, and Bolzano on infinity.**Cantor's ancestry**Cantor's paternal grandparents were from

Copenhagen , and fled to Russia from the disruption of theNapoleonic Wars . In his letters, Cantor referred to them as "Israelites". However, there is no direct evidence on whether his grandparents practicedJudaism ; there is very little direct information on them of any kind. [*"E.g.", Grattan-Guinness's only evidence on the grandfather's date of death is that he signed papers at his son's engagement.*] Jakob Cantor, Cantor's grandfather, gave his children Christiansaint s' names. Further, several of his grandmother's relatives were in the Czarist civil service, which would not welcome Jews, unless they, or their ancestors, converted to Orthodox Christianity. Cantor's father, Georg Woldemar Cantor, was educated in the Lutheran mission in Saint Petersburg, and his correspondence with his son shows both of them as devout Lutherans. His mother, Maria Anna Böhm, was anAustria n born in Saint Petersburg and baptized Roman Catholic; she converted toProtestantism upon marriage. However, there is a letter from Cantor's brother Louis to their mother, saying which could imply that she was of Jewish ancestry. [*For more information, see: Dauben 1979, p. 1 and notes; Grattan-Guinness 1971, pp. 350–352 and notes; Purkert and Ilgauds 1985; the letter is from Aczel 2000, pp. 93–94, from Louis' trip to Chicago in 1863. It is ambiguous in German, as in English, whether the recipient is included.*]Thus Cantor was not himself Jewish by faith, but has nevertheless been called variously German, Jewish, [

*Cantor was frequently described as Jewish in his lifetime. For example,*] Russian, and Danish.Jewish Encyclopedia , art. "Cantor, Georg";Jewish Year Book 1896–1897, "List of Jewish Celebrities of the Nineteenth Century", p.119; this list has a star against people with one Jewish parent, but Cantor is not starred.**Historiography**Until the 1970s, the chief academic publications on Cantor were two short monographs by Schönflies (1927)—largely the correspondence with Mittag-Leffler—and Fraenkel (1930). Both were at second and third hand; neither had much on his personal life. The gap was largely filled by

Eric Temple Bell 's "Men of Mathematics " (1937), which one of Cantor's modern biographers describes as "perhaps the most widely read modern book on thehistory of mathematics "; and as "one of the worst". [*Grattan-Guinness 1971, p. 350.*] Bell presents Cantor's relationship with his father as Oedipal, Cantor's differences with Kronecker as a quarrel between two Jews, and Cantor's madness as Romantic despair over his failure to win acceptance for his mathematics, and fills the picture with stereotypes. Grattan-Guinness (1971) found that none of these claims were true, but they may be found in many books of the intervening period, owing to the absence of any other narrative. There are other legends, independent of Bell—including one that labels Cantor's father a foundling, shipped to Saint Petersburg by unknown parents. [*Grattan-Guinness 1971 (quotation from p. 350, note), Dauben 1979, p.1 and notes. (Bell's Jewish stereotypes appear to have been removed from some postwar editions.)*]**ee also***

Cantor's back-and-forth method

*Cantor function

*Heine–Cantor theorem

*Cantor medal —award by theDeutsche Mathematiker-Vereinigung in honor of Georg Cantor.

*Controversy over Cantor's theory **Notes****References**:"Older sources on Cantor's life should be treated with caution. See Historiography section above."; Primary literature in English:

*. ISBN 978-0486600451

*. ISBN 978-0198532712; Primary literature in German:

*. (PDF) Almost everything that Cantor wrote.

*.; Secondary literature:

*. ISBN 0760777780. A popular treatment of infinity, in which Cantor is frequently mentioned.

*.

*. The definitive biography to date. ISBN 978-0-691-02447-9

*. Internet version published in Journal of the ACMS 2004.

*.

*.

*. ISBN 978-0691058580

*. ISBN 0-19-853283-0

*. ISBN 3540900926

*. ISBN 0812695380 Three chapters and 18 index entries on Cantor.

*.

*.

*. ISBN 0679776311 Chapter 16 illustrates how Cantorian thinking intrigues a leading contemporary theoretical physicist.

*. ISBN 0-8176-1770-1

*. ISBN 0387049991

*. ISBN 0553255312 Deals with similar topics to Aczel, but in more depth.

*.

*.

*. ISBN 0486616304 Although the presentation is axiomatic rather than naive, Suppes proves and discusses many of Cantor's results, which demonstrates Cantor's continued importance for the edifice of foundational mathematics.

*. ISBN 0393003388

*.**External links***MacTutor|id=Cantor

*MacTutor|class=HistTopics|id = Beginnings_of_set_theory|title = A history of set theory Mainly devoted to Cantor's accomplishment.

*MathGenealogy |id=29561

* [*http://uk.geocities.com/frege@btinternet.com/cantor/cantorquotes.htm Selections from Cantor's philosophical writing.*]

* [*http://uk.geocities.com/frege@btinternet.com/cantor/diagarg.htm Text of Cantor's 1891 diagonal argument.*]

*Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: [*http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/set-theory/ Set theory*] byThomas Jech .

*Grammar school Georg-Cantor Halle (Saale): [*http://www.cantor-gymnasium.de Georg-Cantor-Gynmasium Halle*]Persondata

NAME = Cantor, Georg Ferdinand Ludwig Philipp

ALTERNATIVE NAMES = Cantor, Georg

SHORT DESCRIPTION = Mathematician who originatedset theory .

DATE OF BIRTH =3 March 1845

PLACE OF BIRTH =Saint Petersburg ,Russia

DATE OF DEATH =6 January 1918

PLACE OF DEATH =Halle, Saxony-Anhalt ,Germany

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