Christian Heinrich von Dillmann

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Christian von Dillmann (December 30, 1829 - December 18, 1899) was a German teacher and school reformers.


Die Mathematik die Fackelträgerin einer neuen Zeit (Stuttgart, 1889)[edit]

Reported in: Memorabilia mathematica or, The philomath's quotation-book by Robert Edouard Moritz. Published 1914 (at

  • Mathematics, too, is a language, and as concerns its structure and content it is the most perfect language which exists, superior to any vernacular; indeed, since it is understood by every people, mathematics may be called the language of languages. Through it, as it were, nature herself speaks; through it the Creator of the world has spoken, and through it the Preserver of the world continues to speak.
    • p. 5.
  • It is number which regulates everything and it is measure which establishes universal order.... A quiet peace, an inviolable order, an inflexible security amidst all change and turmoil characterize the world which mathematics discloses and whose depths it unlocks.
    • p. 12.
  • It is known that the mathematics prescribed for the high school [Gymnasien] is essentially Euclidean, while it is modern mathematics, the theory of functions and the infinitesimal calculus, which has secured for us an insight into the mechanism and laws of nature. Euclidean mathematics is indeed, a prerequisite for the theory of functions, but just as one, though he has learned the inflections of Latin nouns and verbs, will not thereby be enabled to read a Latin author much less to appreciate the beauties of a Horace, so Euclidean mathematics, that is the mathematics of the high school, is unable to unlock nature and her laws. Euclidean mathematics assumes the completeness and invariability of mathematical forms; these forms it describes with appropriate accuracy and enumerates their inherent and related properties with perfect clearness, order, and completeness, that is, Euclidean mathematics operates on forms after the manner that anatomy operates on the dead body and its members.
On the other hand, the mathematics of variable magnitudes—function theory or analysis—considers mathematical forms in their genesis. By writing the equation of the parabola, we express its law of generation, the law according to which the variable point moves. The path, produced before the eyes of the 113 student by a point moving in accordance to this law, is the parabola.
If, then, Euclidean mathematics treats space and number forms after the manner in which anatomy treats the dead body, modern mathematics deals, as it were, with the living body, with growing and changing forms, and thus furnishes an insight, not only into nature as she is and appears, but also into nature as she generates and creates,—reveals her transition steps and in so doing creates a mind for and understanding of the laws of becoming. Thus modern mathematics bears the same relation to Euclidean mathematics that physiology or biology … bears to anatomy. But it is exactly in this respect that our view of nature is so far above that of the ancients; that we no longer look on nature as a quiescent complete whole, which compels admiration by its sublimity and wealth of forms, but that we conceive of her as a vigorous growing organism, unfolding according to definite, as delicate as far-reaching, laws; that we are able to lay hold of the permanent amidst the transitory, of law amidst fleeting phenomena, and to be able to give these their simplest and truest expression through the mathematical formulas
  • p. 37.
  • He who is unfamiliar with mathematics [literally, he who is a layman in mathematics] remains more or less a stranger to our time.
    • p. 39.
  • Mathematics because of its nature and structure is peculiarly fitted for high school instruction [Gymnasiallehrfach]. Especially the higher mathematics, even if presented only in its elements, combines within itself all those qualities which are demanded of a secondary subject. It engages, it fructifies, it quickens, compels attention, is as circumspect as inventive, induces courage and self-confidence as well as modesty and submission to truth. It yields the essence and kernel of all things, is brief in form and overflows with its wealth of content. It discloses the depth and breadth of the law and spiritual element behind the surface of phenomena; it impels from point to point and carries within itself the incentive toward progress; it stimulates the artistic perception, good taste in judgment and execution, as well as the scientific comprehension of things. Mathematics, therefore, above all other subjects, makes the student lust after knowledge, fills him, as it were, with a longing to fathom the cause of things and to employ his own powers independently; it collects his mental forces and concentrates them on a single point and thus awakens the spirit of individual inquiry, self-confidence and the joy of doing; it fascinates because of the view-points which it offers and creates certainty and assurance, owing to the universal validity of its methods. Thus, both what he receives and what he himself contributes toward the proper conception and solution of a problem, combine to mature the student and to make him skillful, to lead him away from the surface of things and to exercise him in the perception of their essence. A student thus prepared thirsts after knowledge and is ready for the university and its sciences. Thus it appears, that higher mathematics is the best guide to philosophy and to the philosophic conception of the world (considered as a self-contained whole) and of one’s own being.
    • p. 40.
  • Pure mathematics proves itself a royal science both through its content and form, which contains within itself the cause of its being and its methods of proof. For in complete independence mathematics creates for itself the object of which it treats, its magnitudes and laws, its formulas and symbols.
    • p. 94.

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