Goldbach

Some years before his death GOLDBACH had his testament written. He appointed as his principal heir the librarian Gottfried BOCK. This, and the fact that BOCK was a regular visitor at his house had some eyebrows raised, simply because of the large social distance between the humble “consiliarius et bibliothecae praefectus” BOCK and Geheimrat GOLDBACH. Some years earlier he had made dispositions for his burial – he had planned a very modest and sober ceremony without the usual pomp funèbre. When he finally died on 20th of November (or 1st of December, depends on what calendar is used) his last will was presented to the czarina (the great Catherina, Ger., Eng.) – she wrote her “placet” on it with her own hand only two days later. Finally he was buried with all the usual effort and extravagance owed to his status, his position at the court. All his papers – diaries, notes, letters – were sealed by the ministry of foreign affairs and carefully archived.
GOLDBACH was a very discreet man, we know not much about his personal life. In his diaries he carefully noted whom he met where and when (with the notable exception of Gottfried, who is not mentioned), but he rarely ever gives the topic of the conversation – he is often described as a very charming conversational partner, he is clearly a man of the spoken word. But he also uses the medium of the time extensively, letters.
Christian GOLDBACH (Ger., Eng.) is born in Königsberg on the 18th of March 1690. We know that he has one brother, Heinrich, with whom he studies in Leipzig in 1711. In this year he meets Christian WOLFF & G.W. LEIBNIZ – and what is more important, he keeps the contact with these scholars for the next years to come. And not only with these two – in fact GOLDBACH establishes a network of communication all over Europe that mirrors his wide range of interests from modern natural sciences to philology, from architecture via music to mathematics. He takes care to come into contact with the leading men of the day. From spring 1712 until December 1714 GOLDBACH is traveling Europe, crisscrossing the European Gelehrtenrepublik. Seemingly by the way he defends a dissertation at the university of Groningen (August 1712) and gets a licentia docendi juris ; when he gets back to Berlin in winter 1714 he becomes a Prussian Hofrat, before he retreats to Königsberg.
Some years later he comes back to Berlin (August 1718) and then travels to the North (Stockholm, Kopenhagen) before he is in Vienna – all in all he is on the road until April 1724, for more than five years. The suspicion is allowed that he somehow is involved in Prussian foreign politics, now not scholars are his main conversational partners, but diplomats. He stays not for long in Berlin 1724/25 – there is a new project on the horizon, the foundation of a Russian academy of sciences in St. Petersburg (Ger., Eng.). He arrives in St.Petersburg in August 1725 & starts his work as secretary of this institution in September. As I understand he will not leave Russia any more. Two years later, 1727, he becomes the head teacher of the heir to the throne Petr Alekseevic (Ger., Eng.), who sadly dies only fourteen years of age in January 1730. GOLDBACH holds different ranks in the court hierarchy, and in 1744 becomes officially a member of the council for foreign affairs. He dies 1764 in St.Petersburg.
Through the last 22 years of his life, which he spent in the service of the council of foreign affairs, he traveled between Moskau and St.Petersburg, but he clearly favoured the latter city. GOLDBACH was responsible for the cipher-service, and he was successful. In June 1744 the Russians deciphered a letter of the French envoy that contained some not very nice remarks about the czarina – that is Elisabeth (Ger., Eng.). In this year GOLDBACH received as a special gift not only one, but two golden tobacco “tins”, next year the personal nobility, and in 1746 the czarina gave him a manor – he never visited it, the rent brought him 1400 Rubel a year, as he wrote in a letter to EULER. His regular annual income was 1500 roubles.
He tries to keep out of the intrigues at court as good as he can, always keeps contact with the academy he helped to found, and stays discreet. His successful work in the cipher departement is continued by his successor Franz ÆPINUS (Ger., Eng.) (1724-1802), who in some respects repeats GOLDBACHs journey through life : He is also a member of the academy, he teaches the heir to the throne, and he stays unmarried.

I used for this scribble the following book :
Juskevic, Adolf P. ; Kopelevic, Judith Kh. : Christian Goldbach. 1690-1764. Aus dem Russischen übersetzt von Annerose und Walter Purkert, Basel Boston Berlin 1994 (Vita mathematica 8). First Moskva 1983. Strangely enough this title is not mentioned among the literature in the German wikipedia-article.

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11 thoughts on “Goldbach

  1. I have no clue what they used Herr Hofrat LX. But it’s for sure that the ciphers used by the European ambassadors were no real obstacle for them. And Goldbach was in mathematics, he discussed “Funktionen” and whatnot with Euler, the leading mathematician of the 18th century – in a letter to him he formulated his “conjecture / Vermutung. I assume he used his mathematic knowledge in creating new ciphers, and Aepinus (who held Goldbach’s position for more than thirty years until the 1790s) followed in his footsteps. Maybe a history of espionage could give some details.

    I am not sure what a “whip” does Dinahmow, but I am sure that Goldbach – always loyal to the throne – used his knowledge, or provided his knowledge to those who shared his position. He remarkably survived some major intrigues at the court. Aepinus’ career ended when his personal relation with the czar became sour – surely a generation thing too, after all he was a very long serving official.

  2. YES ! Braking is for the weak – we run this thing until the tank is empty !
    I wonder what the man in black (with the suitcase) in the background is for ?
    Great find mate !

  3. I just now tried to wrap my brain around Goldbach’s conjecture, but, alas, I’m brain dead when it comes math and stuff like that. Seems an interesting fellow though.

  4. I have absolutely no clue how Goldbach’s conjecture is relevant, for what and why, dear Foam. As I was told by a mathematician it is not prooven for all “Primzahlen” – as I understand there are still some to be discovered – but it is also not un-prooven. But I do not know what it means.

    Reads a bit like the end of democracy, Dinahmow. Some people say that modern democracy fell victim of the parties – and this article seems to confirm it.

    I am sure that the czarina was told. I have to look for literature about it, and will tell you then IDV. Guess it would be the task of the person responsible for foreign affairs. Perhaps he would also have to pick the gallant (professional) swordsman who would duel (think : shashlik) the French ambassador …

    BTW these reports of delegations or missions to courts are very informative sources.

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