Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel


Famous scholars from Kiel:

Heinrich Ferdinand Scherk


Heinrich Ferdinand Scherk lectured at the Christiana Albertina as a full Professor of Mathematics and Astronomy from 1833 to 1852.


He was born on 27 October 1798 in Posen. After completing grammar school he studied at the University of Wroclaw from 1818 to 1820 and in Königsberg from 1820 to 1822. His lecturer in Königsberg, Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel, sent him to Carl Friedrich Gauß in Göttingen with a letter of recommendation in 1822. He earned his doctorate in 1823 in Berlin under instruction from Bessel and Heinrich Brandes, then returned to Königsberg and qualified as a professor in 1824.

In the year 1826 he was appointed associate professor in Halle; in 1831 he was appointed full professor as successor to Johann Friedrich Pfaff, who had passed away in 1825. One of his first students here was Ernst Eduard Kummer, who solved one of the contest tasks set by Scherk and earned his doctorate in 1831. On 10 September 1833 he was appointed full Professor of Mathematics and Astronomy in Kiel. Johann Peter Lejeune Dirichlet, among others, was suggested as a candidate for filling the professorship, which had been occupied by Nikolaus Theodor Reimer until 1832. Scherk took on the role of Principal three times and became Curator Fiscorum and administrator of the academic institution in 1835. As from 1848 he was also Co-Director of the German Sea Cadet School in Kiel.

After the suppression of the Schleswig-Holstein uprising, Scherk, an enthusiastic German patriot since his youth, was relieved of all his posts and dismissed, along with seven colleagues, on 4 June 1852. All attempts failed to appoint him back to Halle or to reinstate him in Kiel. Georg Daniel Weyer received the professorship in Kiel in 1852. Scherk went to the Blochmannsches Institut in Dresden as a lecturer and became headmaster of a higher trade school in Bremen in 1854. As this was closed in 1857, he had to work as a teacher at a secondary school (Hauptschule) in Bremen from 1858 to 1874. He passed away on 4 October 1885.

Alongside his contributions to astronomical issues, he wrote pieces on, among other topics, number theory, theory of series and the integration of systems of differential equations. In 1830 he participated in a contest set by the Fürstliche Jablonowskysche Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Leipzig. The piece he submitted, "De proprietatibus superficiei quae hac continetur aequatione (1+q2)r-2pqs+(1+p2)t=0 disquisitiones analyticae", within which "Scherks Minimal Surface" is specified – well-known in today's differential geometry, was awarded first prize in 1831.


Prof. Karsten Johnsen

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