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Jan Arnoldus Schouten

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28 Aug 1883

Nieuweramstel (now part of Amsterdam), Netherlands

20 Jan 1971

Epe, Netherlands

Jan A Schouten studied electrical engineering at the Technische Hogeschool in Delft and then for several years he was an electrical engineer. However he came from a family with substantial amounts of money and when he inherited money he gave up his electrical engineering job and went to Leiden University to study mathematics.

Schouten's doctoral thesis, presented in 1914, was on tensor analysis, a topic he worked on all his life. That same year he became professor of mathematics at Delft and held the post for nearly 30 years. However, A Nijenhuis one of his co-workers, wrote:

In 1943 Schouten resigned the post, divorced his wife and remarried. From then on, he lived in semiseclusion at Epe.

Nijenhuis summarises Schouten's life in the following words:

A descendant of a prominent family of shipbuilders, Schouten grew up in comfortable surroundings. He became not only on of the founders of the " Ricci calculus" but also an efficient organiser (he was a founder of the Mathematical Center at Amsterdam in 1946) and an astute investor. A meticulous lecturer and painfully accurate author, he instilled the same standards in his pupils.

From 1948 until 1953 Schouten was professor of mathematics at the University of Amsterdam but he did not teach. He was director of the Mathematical Research Centre at Amsterdam for five years.

Schouten produced 180 papers and 6 books on tensor analysis. He applied it to Lie groups , relativity, unified field theory and systems of differential equations . In 1919 he made the independent discovery of connections in Riemannian manifolds discovered by Levi-Civita earlier.

Influenced by Weyl and Eddington , Schouten investigated affine, projective and conformal mappings . Klein 's Erlanger Programm of 1872 looked at geometry as properties invariant under the action of a group . This approach had a large influence on Schouten's approach to his topic.

An important figure in the development of the tensor calculus, Schouten was president of the 1954 International Congress of Mathematicians at Amsterdam. All the obituaries listed below were all written by co-workers of Schouten who were strongly influenced by him.

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