The Einstein-Grossmann Collaboration
In memoriam: Marcel Grossmann
Grossmann appeared in previous chapters as the helpful fellow student who made his course notes available to Einstein, as the helpful friend who together with his father paved the way for Einstein's appointment at the patent office in Bern, and as the friend to whom Einstein dedicated his doctoral thesis. It is now time to get better acquainted with him.
Grossmann, a descendant of an old Swiss family, was born in 1878 in Budapest, where his father was employed. He spent his first fifteen years there, then went to Switzerland, where he finished high school. Thereupon he studied at the ETH from 1896 to 1900, together with Einstein. During the next seven years, he taught high school, first in Frauenfeld and then in Basel. In that period he finished his thesis, 'On the Metrical Properties of Collinear Structures,' which earned him his doctoral degree at the University of Zürich, and published two geometry books for high school students and three papers on non-Euclidean geometry, his favorite subject. These papers contain very pretty planimetric constructions which, we are told, were praised by one no less than Hilbert [S1]. After a six-year pause, he published another four papers on related subjects in the years 1910-12. He presented one of these at the fifth international congress of mathematicians in Cambridge, England, in August 1912 [G1]. The mentioned papers are his entire scientific output prior to the collaboration with Einstein, which began a few months after the Cambridge conference. Evidently none of his prior research had any bearing on differential geometry or tensor analysis.
Grossmann had meanwhile joined the mathematics faculty at the ETH in Zürich, first as a stand-in and then, in 1907, as a full professor of geometry. Soon thereafter, he began to organize summer courses for high school teachers. In 1910 he became one of the founders of the Swiss Mathematical Society. The next year he was appointed dean of the mathematics-physics section of the ETH.
One of the first acts of the uncommonly young dean was to sound out Einstein