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Gödel, Kurt Friedrich (28 April 1906–14 January 1978), mathematical logician, was born of German-speaking parents in Brünn, Moravia, the son of Rudolf Gödel, a textile manufacturer, and Marianne Handschuh (also from a family engaged in the textile industry). As a child Gödel suffered from rheumatic fever. His early education was in a Lutheran school in Brünn, although his brother Rudolf later recalled that they were brought up as “freethinkers” and “had no proper relation to religion.” Later, from 1916 until 1924, Gödel went to the German ...

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Tarski, Alfred (14 January 1901–27 October 1983), mathematical logician, was born Alfred Teitelbaum in Warsaw, Poland, the son of Ignacy Teitelbaum, a Jewish businessman who traded in lumber, and Rosa Prussak. His mother had been a brilliant student in secondary school but did not have a career outside the home. In later years Tarski credited his intellect to his mother but spoke of his father as a “man of the heart.” He grew up in comfortable circumstances and attended the Schola Mazowiecka, a high school for the intellectual elite. Besides the standard academic subjects of the day, he learned Russian, German, French, Greek, and Latin; after school he had private lessons in Hebrew. His mathematics teacher described him as a pupil of extraordinary ability....

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van Heijenoort, Jean (23 July 1912–30 March 1986), logician, historian, and one-time revolutionary, was born Jean Louis Maxime van Heijenoort in Creil, France, the only child of Jean (Jan) Théodore Didier van Heijenoort, an émigré from Delft, Holland, who worked as an artisan, and Charlotte Hélène Balagny, a native of the region. After his father’s death at the beginning of World War I, Jean, who was only two, lived with his aunt while his mother worked as a domestic in a hotel. He grew up next to battlefields in wartime and in harsh postwar circumstances. As an adult he spoke of the profound effects of his father’s death and the deep unhappiness of his childhood. Education was his consolation. Recognized as brilliant by his primary school teachers in Creil, van Heijenoort was encouraged to take the scholarship examinations for the district secondary school in Clermont de l’Oise. Awarded a complete scholarship, from the age of eleven to eighteen he lived as a boarding student at the Collège of Clermont. After the unusual accomplishment of a double baccalaureate in philosophy and mathematics, he went on to the prestigious Lycée Saint Louis in Paris, where he specialized in mathematics....

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Whitehead, Alfred North (15 February 1861–30 December 1947), mathematician, logician, and philosopher, was born at Ramsgate on the Isle of Thanet in Kent, England, the son of Alfred Whitehead, an educator and a member of the Church of England clergy, and Maria Sarah Buckmaster. The young Alfred North Whitehead enjoyed the benefits of the exceptionally fine schooling available in the mid-nineteenth century to the gifted sons of families that, even though of modest means, were well connected within church and education circles. For his university preparation he was sent to the Sherborne School in Dorsetshire in southern England, where he easily absorbed the broad curriculum, participated in sports, and reached the pinnacle of student leadership, a position roughly analogous to being president of the student council in an American school....