Summary: Wolfgang Doeblin
a mathematician rediscovered
Monday, May 5, 2008
McCune Conference Room
It is not often that a movie is made about a mathematician.
Wolfgang Doeblin's life story, however, is anything but ordinary, and captures the imagination of anyone
interested in the WWII period and in lost documents.
Wolfgang Doeblin is the son of the famous German writer, Alfred Doeblin. His family escaped from Nazi
Germany to Paris where Doeblin studied mathematics under Frechet and proved to be a brilliant probabilist.
After WWII broke out in 1939, he was drafted as a simple soldier to the French army. Stationed near the French/
German border, in the winter of 1939-1940, Wolfgang wrote his manuscript "On Kolmogorov's equation" and
sent it as a sealed letter to the Academy of Sciences. A few months later, threatened to be captured by the
German Wehrmacht, he committed suicide.
Doeblin's letter remained unopened and forgotten for 60 years. When opened, in May 2000, its contents caused a
sensation among mathematicians.
The film documents scientific and human aspects of this amazing discovery and throws new light on the
startling circumstances of Doeblin's death at the age of 25 (55 minutes).