A Holy Land Learner and Leader

The Fellowship  |  July 19, 2019

Professor Michael Fekete during Siege of Jerusalem, 1948
Professor Michael Fekete during Siege of Jerusalem, 1948

Michael Fekete

July 19, 1886 – May 13, 1957

Born to a Jewish family in Austria-Hungary, Michael Fekete earned his PhD in mathematics at the University of Budapest, where he would then teach through most of the 1920s.

In 1928, however, Fekete made aliyah (immigrated) to what was then still British-mandate Palestine. There, he was one of the first mathematics instructors at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the next year being promoted to professor.

Professor Fekete would go on to provide learning and leadership to the Holy Land for the rest of his life. As a mathematician, he is remembered for such concepts as Fekete’s Problem, Fekete’s Polynomial, Fekete’s Lemma, Fekete’s Constant, and the Fekete-Szego Inequality. As a teacher, he would mentor generations of Israeli academics, including renowned mathematicians Aryeh Dvoretzky and Michael Habir Maschler. And as a leader, he not only headed Hebrew University’s Institute of Mathematics, but acted as Dean of Natural Sciences and Provost of the university itself. For his work, he would be awarded the Israel Prize in 1955. And besides being a teacher and mathematician, Professor Fekete was first and foremost a citizen of the Jewish state, as can be seen in the above photo in which, during the 1948 Siege of Jerusalem, he carried his water quota, along with other fellow Israelis.

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