August Ferdinand Möbius

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August Möbius
August Ferdinand Möbius

(1790-11-17)17 November 1790
Died26 September 1868(1868-09-26) (aged 77)
Alma mater
Known for
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of Leipzig
Doctoral advisorJohann Pfaff
Other academic advisors
Doctoral studentsOtto Wilhelm Fiedler
Other notable studentsHermann Hankel

August Ferdinand Möbius (UK: /ˈmɜːbiəs/, US: /ˈm-, ˈm-/;[1] German: [ˈmøːbi̯ʊs]; 17 November 1790 – 26 September 1868) was a German mathematician and theoretical astronomer.

Early life and education[edit]

Möbius was born in Schulpforta, Electorate of Saxony, and was descended on his mother's side from religious reformer Martin Luther.[2] He was home-schooled until he was 13, when he attended the college in Schulpforta in 1803, and studied there, graduating in 1809. He then enrolled at the University of Leipzig, where he studied astronomy under the mathematician and astronomer Karl Mollweide.[3] In 1813, he began to study astronomy under mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss at the University of Göttingen, while Gauss was the director of the Göttingen Observatory. From there, he went to study with Carl Gauss's instructor, Johann Pfaff, at the University of Halle, where he completed his doctoral thesis The occultation of fixed stars in 1815.[3] In 1816, he was appointed as Extraordinary Professor to the "chair of astronomy and higher mechanics" at the University of Leipzig.[3] Möbius died in Leipzig in 1868 at the age of 77. His son Theodor was a noted philologist.


He is best known for his discovery of the Möbius strip, a non-orientable two-dimensional surface with only one side when embedded in three-dimensional Euclidean space. It was independently discovered by Johann Benedict Listing a few months earlier.[3] The Möbius configuration, formed by two mutually inscribed tetrahedra, is also named after him. Möbius was the first to introduce homogeneous coordinates into projective geometry. He is recognized for the introduction of the Barycentric coordinate system.[4] Before 1853 and Schläfli's discovery of the 4-polytopes, Möbius (with Cayley and Grassmann) was one of only three other people who had also conceived of the possibility of geometry in more than three dimensions.[5]

Many mathematical concepts are named after him, including the Möbius plane, the Möbius transformations, important in projective geometry, and the Möbius transform of number theory. His interest in number theory led to the important Möbius function μ(n) and the Möbius inversion formula. In Euclidean geometry, he systematically developed the use of signed angles and line segments as a way of simplifying and unifying results.[6]

Collected works[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wells, John C. (2008). Longman Pronunciation Dictionary (3rd ed.). Longman. ISBN 978-1-4058-8118-0.
  2. ^ George Szpiro (2007). Poincaré's Prize: The Hundred-Year Quest to Solve One of Math's Greatest Puzzles. Plume. p. 66. ISBN 978-0-525-95024-0.
  3. ^ a b c d August Ferdinand Möbius, The MacTutor History of Mathematics archive. Retrieved on 2017-04-26.
  4. ^ Hille, Einar. "Analytic Function Theory, Volume I", Second edition, fifth printing. Chelsea Publishing Company, New York, 1982, ISBN 0-8284-0269-8, page 33, footnote 1
  5. ^ Coxeter, H.S.M. (1973) [1948]. Regular Polytopes (3rd ed.). New York: Dover. p. 141.
  6. ^ Howard Eves, A Survey of Geometry (1963), p. 64 (Revised edition 1972, Allyn & Bacon, ISBN 0-205-03226-5)

External links[edit]