Norwegian Mathematical Society

The Norwegian Mathematical Society

The Norwegian Mathematical Society, Norsk matematisk forening, was founded on 2 November 1918 with the aim of:-

... connecting mathematically interested persons from all over the country.

It was not the first time a national mathematical society had been proposed for Norway, however, for Lie had started moves to create such a Society in 1885. At this time Lie was professor in Oslo but after he moved to Leipzig in the following year there was nobody to push ahead with the venture.

The idea was brought up again in 1918 when Arnfinn Palmstrom, who became professor of actuarial mathematics in the following year, persuaded Norwegian insurance companies to put up the necessary finance. Heegaard had been professor of mathematics at Copenhagen University, where he edited the Danish Mathematical Journal, but resigned in 1917 because of a heavy work load and disagreements with colleagues. He was appointed as professor of mathematics at Oslo and immediately offered strong support to Palmstrom to create a Norwegian Mathematical Society. Heegaard's experience as editor of the Danish Mathematical Journal also brought valuable experience to the new Society. The membership of the Society was made up of university teachers, university students, schoolteachers, and actuaries.

The Society elected its first officers, with Carl Stormer becoming President, Palmstrom becoming Secretary, and Heegaard becoming editor of the journal which the Society wanted to start publishing as quickly as possible. The Norsk Matematisk Tidsskrift (The Norwegian Mathematical Journal) first appeared in 1919. Birkeland writes [1]:-

The Journal was intended to serve two not quite compatible purposes: to provide interesting reading for the general mathematically interested public and to give young and aspiring mathematicians a chance to have their work printed. That problem found a temporary solution when Heegaard succeeded in obtaining funds for a series of pamphlets, Norsk matematisk forenings skrifter ... where younger Norwegian mathematicians ... had some of their early work published. Regrettably, for financial reasons this enterprise was discontinued in the 1930's.

In 1950 there was an initiative by certain Danish mathematicians to create two Scandinavian journals of mathematics, one for research level mathematics and the other to cover more elementary mathematics. At first the Norwegian Mathematical Society were cautious in their support of the venture [3]:-

It would not be easy for them to give up the Norwegian journal that several of them had struggled for 30 years before. ... It such a Scandinavian journal should be a reality the Norwegians would appreciate that it - at least in the beginning - would be published in Norway, and that it be used in exchange for other journals.

Cooperation was agreed between the Danish, Icelandic, Finnish, Swedish and Norwegian Mathematical Societies and the title of Mathematica Scandinavica was chosen by votes taken in the participating mathematical societies in January 1952. The first meeting of the editorial board was in May and the journal was first published in 1953. Although negotiations for the joint publication of Nordisk Matematisk Tidskrift took a little longer to finalise, it first appeared in 1953.

The Society has been involved in other important publishing ventures such as the Collected Works of Sophus Lie. Friederich Engel and Poul Heegaard were appointed as editors and they published the first volume in 1922. However it was a major task which faced various problems, partly financial, and last volume, namely the seventh, only appeared in 1960.

Birkeland [1] writes of other activities of the Society:-

Mathematics competitions for college students have been part of the Society's activities nearly constantly from the beginning. For many years starting in 1922, Crown Prince Olav awarded a prize for the best solutions to a series of problems posed in the Journal. ... Another activity is the winter seminar 'Ski and Mathematics' early in January. That tradition was initiated in the 1960's by Professor Karl Egil Aubert. ... It takes place at a hotel in the mountains, the programme being divided between outdoor activities before lunch and mathematics in the afternoon.

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JOC/EFR August 2004 School of Mathematics and Statistics
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