Alum Ben Elkins (BSAM 1988 and MSAM 1992) Helps to Correct Gödel Gravestone

February 2, 2021 | Atlanta, GA

A few years ago, bringing his son Adam to school in Princeton, NJ, Alum Ben Elkins (BSAM 1988 and MSAM 1992) decided to visit Princeton Cemetary to visit the graves of famous mathematicians. He recently wrote to us with an update, which we would like to share.

From Ben's recent correspondance:

I was honored and then shocked at the lack of upkeep and poison ivy that had overtaken [Gödel's] gravestone back then. Additionally, the double-quote over the O (a Hungarian diacritic I believe) also I found deeply troubling.
Upon my return home I reached out to the Princeton Cemetary office and started discussions on cleaning and correcting the engraving.
These discussions have continued over the past years and as you can imagine, as there were no children, the math dept here at Princeton are the assumed trustees of the burial plot. One can just imagine the towers of bureaucratic paper work it took to correct these issues.

Well, to make a long story short, I touched base with the cemetery office before driving over and they assured me all was in order and had been corrected.

Please see a pic from a few minutes ago! I am so pleased to be able to leave a rock, pay my respects to this great man of mathematics and see his cleaned gravestone and corrected Germanic umlaut as he was known to write his name.

I’m assuming the error arose upon his burial preparations as he was born in Brünn, Austria-Hungary (currently Brno, Czech Republic).

I know Kurt Gödel is an important historical mathematical / philosophical figure to you as well and I wanted to share these pics with you for your enjoyment.

Ben Elkins was also gracious enough to share his translation of Felix Hausdorff's Poem "Den Ungeflügelten" last year, which appears in the recent edition of the ProofReader. Thank you very much for your contributions, Ben!

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Sal Barone