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Wedged between Poland and Lithuania, along the Baltic Coast, is a piece of Russia located 200 miles away from the Russian border. The Kaliningrad oblast, an exclave of Russia, was originally a Prussian state before it was transferred over to the Soviet Union after the end of the Second World War when the Allied powers met at Potsdam to decide who gets which territory. Back then Kaliningrad was known as Königsberg. If that name doesn’t ring any bells then you are definitely not a mathematician.

Königsberg’s association with science and mathematics goes back to the 18th century. The city was then a hub for science and cultural wizardry from Germany, Poland and Lithuania. Königsberg was the birthplace of the famous mathematicians Christian Goldbach—whom we today remember for the Goldbach's conjecture which is one of the oldest and best-known unsolved problems in number theory, David Hilbert—the formulator of Hilbert spaces, and Carl Neumann—for the famous Neumann series we learned in high school.

konigsberg-1581-2

A bird's-eye view of Königsberg, as in late 16th century.

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© Amusing Planet, 2018.


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