Photo of Kurt Otto Friedrichs

Kurt Otto Friedrichs

  • National Medal of Science
  • Mathematics And Computer Science

For bringing the powers of modern mathematics to bear on problems in physics, fluid dynamics, and elasticity.

Kurt Otto Friedrichs was a leader in the field of mathematics, including contributions to bridge the field with fluid dynamics, elasticity and physics. A central theme in his research and work it was partial differential equations. His work in explaining physical phenomena including shock waves, boundary layers, shadows, and edge effects helped describe their importance for an observer’s understanding.

Friedrichs taught at New York University for 45 years, from 1937 until his retirement in 1982. His teaching style earned him the university’s Great Teachers Award in 1965.

Friedrichs was born in Kiel, Germany, and studied at various universities, which was the norm at the time in the 1920s, before earning a Ph.D. degree in mathematics from the University of Gottingen in 1925. During his early studies he found an interest in philosophy, and retained a lifelong interest in subject. He began teaching at the Aerodynamics Institute in Aachen and the Institute of Technology in Braunschweig before moving to the United States in 1937.

By Christine Ayala