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Jesse Douglas

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3 July 1897

New York, USA

7 Oct 1965

New York, USA

Jesse Douglas developed a love of geometry studying Plateau Problems . He studied differential geometry at Columbia College from 1920 to 1926. Then from 1926 to 1930 he visited Princeton, Harvard, Chicago, Paris and Göttingen.

He gave a complete solution to the Plateau problem which was first posed by Lagrange in 1760. It was studied by Riemann , Weierstrass and Schwarz . The problem is proving the existence of a surface of minimal area bounded by a contour. Before Douglas's solution only special cases had been solved. Then he went on to study generalisations of the problem.

In 1943 Douglas was awarded the Bôcher Prize by the American Mathematical Society for his memoirs on the Plateau Problem. In particular the award was for three papers all published in 1939: Green's function and the problem of Plateau published in the American Journal of Mathematics, The most general form of the problem of Plateau published in the American Journal of Mathematics and Solution of the inverse problem of the calculus of variations published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Douglas also worked on the calculus of variations and, in 1951, studied groups with two generators x, y such that every element can be expressed in the form xmyn with m, n integers.

Source:School of Mathematics and Statistics University of St Andrews, Scotland