Well-known Greeks, page II
Constantinos Karatheodori (Caratheodory). Considered as one of the greatest mathematicians of the 20th century, he was born in Berlin in 1873 from Greek parents and died in Munich in 1950. Karatheodori was raised by his grandmother in Brussels, where he graduated from the military school where he studied engineering and was considered a charismatic and brilliant student. Then he moved in Germany, where he studied mathematics and became University professor. In 1920 he came to Greece, invited by his friend and Prime Minister at the time, Eleftherios Venizelos, to organize the University of Smirni. Unfortunately in 1922 the Turks seized Smirni –however he managed to save the university library and moved to Athens, where he taught at the Polytechnic School and became a member of the Academy of Athens. In 1924 he moved to Berlin where he stayed until the end of his life in 1950.
As a mathematician, he made an important contribution to the theory of real functions, conformal representations, calculus of variations, and to the theory of point-set measure, as well as to thermodynamics and relativity theory. He was greatly admired by most well-known scientists of his time, with Albert Einstein considering him as “a great teacher” (although he wasn’t Einstein's actual teacher as it is mistakenly believed). He was so much admired by peers that when he was accepted into the Prussian Academy of Sciences in Berlin in 1919, no other than Max Planck presented him with the honorary dedication.
True Greek to the end (it is said that only Greek was allowed to be spoken at his house between his family members), was an active member in the Greek-Orthodox community until the end of his life.
George Papanikolaou. The great physician and anatomist who discovered the “Pap smear” that has saved millions of lives of women around the world up to today, by the early detection of cancer of the cervix of uterus and other premalignant conditions of the female genital tract.
Born in Kymi, Euboea in May of 1883, he began his studies in the University of Athens in humanities and music. However, complying with his father's wish, he continued his studies at the medical faculty of the University in Athens where he received his medical degree in 1904. He then continued his studies in Germany and then moved to Paris to work. In 1912 and because the World War I began, he returned to Greece in order to fight for his country. There he met some Greek-Americans who had returned to Greece for the same reason—they persuaded him to move to the USA to work there. In Cornell Medical College, where he was to stay for 47 years, Dr. Papanicolaou discovered that women with uterine cancer exhibited "abnormal cells, with enlarged, deformed, or hyperchromatic nuclei". It took him more than 11 years and a series of publications to establish his findings: In 1939, in cooperation with gynecologist Herbert F. Traut they showed how lesions could be detected in their incipient, gaining peer acceptance. In the following years, he extended his technique to the respiratory, urinary, upper gastrointestinal tracts and the breast. Since then, his method has been used to screen for cancer in many organs and to predict cancer radiosensitivity.
He continued working hard on his findings, receiving honours from many organizations and institutions. In 1961 he fulfilled a dream by becoming the director of the Papanicolaou Cancer Research Institute in Miami. However, this didn’t last long: He died almost a year later on February of 1962 and was buried in New Jersey.
Michael Dertouzos. Full name Mihalis-Leonidas Dertouzos, was born in Athens in 1934. His father was an admiral of the Hellenic Navy and the family was lucky enough to survive the occupation of Greece by Nazis. He studied in Athens and in 1964 he joined the MIT, where he became the director of MIT's Laboratory for Computer Science in 1974.
He devoted his life in trying to persuade the industry to make computers more accessible to nontechnical audiences, its use in education (something that is common-sense now but was considered as a “crazy idea” at the time), and to oversee development and insure the independence of the Web, leading to the “opening” of WWW to everyone. Under his guidance the MIT computer lab, produced a string of critical innovations, ranging from time-shared computers to spreadsheets, encryption and key Internet technologies, supporting several key high-tech start-ups, such as videoconferencing and the software encryption.
He held patents for a graphical display system, an incremental photoelectric encoder, a graphic tablet, and for a parallel thermal printer, wrote numerous books as Bill Gates quoted “He was the first real technology humanist who believed that technology was largely worthless unless it truly enhanced human life, human communication, human work and play”.
He died in July 2001 and was buried in Athens where he kept spending much of his holidays for all of his years.
Dimitris Nanopoulos. Born in Athens in 1948, he completed his degree in Physics in 1971 from the University of Athens and his Ph.D. in 1973 from the University of Sussex, England. He has made several contributions to particle physics and cosmology working in string unified theories, fundamentals of quantum theory, astroparticle physics and quantum-inspired models of brain function.
Nanopoulos is fellow of the American Physical Society, fellow and chair of Theoretical Physics of Academy of Athens in Greece and Professor of Physics and holder of the Mitchell/Heep Chair in High Energy Physics at Texas A&M University, which he joined in 1989. He is author of more than 515 refereed articles, with an excess of 27000 citations, placing him as the fourth most cited High Energy Physicist of all time (in 2001).
Amongst his most important findings is the one he together with Nikolaos Mavromatis of King's College in London and John Ellis of CERN discovered: A new expression for the speed of light, which depends on its frequency. ”Through our calculations, we found that the speed of light is frequency-dependent. But a change in the usual speed of light value of 186282 miles per second is noticeable only for light coming from astronomical objects situated very far from Earth, which is why this frequency dependence has not been noticed so far...”, as he says.
He is currently chairing the Hellenic Committee of Research and Technology that is responsible for the homecoming of Greek scientists.
Christos Papakyriakopoulos (Papa). Christos Dimitriou Papakyriakopoulos, commonly known as "Papa" was born in Chalandri, Athens, Greece on June 29, 1914 and died on June 29, 1976) was one of the most promiment mathematical figures of the 20th century, specialized in geometric topology. Papakyriakopoulos came from an affluent family and went on to study Maths despite his father’s will. He was a top university student and fought in the Greek resistance. During the Greek civil war, he worked as a teacher in a village in Thessaly and went the civil war was over he returned in Athens to work as a university researcher. Soon however, his mentor was forced out of the academia due to his political beliefs and his future was hanging in peril.
The situation however changed in 1948, when he was invited by Ralph Fox to come as his guest at the Princeton mathematics department. Fox had been impressed by a letter from Papakyriakopoulos which purported to prove Dehn's lemma. The proof, as it turned out had flaws, but Fox's sponsorship would continue for many years and enabled Papakyriakopoulos to work on his mathematics without concern of financial support, despite the fact that the Greek authorities had marked him as a “communist”.
Papakyriakopoulos is best known for his proofs of Dehn's lemma, the loop theorem, and the sphere theorem, three foundational results for the study of 3-manifolds. In honor of this work, he was awarded the first Veblen Prize in Geometry in 1964. From the early sixties on, he mostly worked on the Poincarι conjecture, which although he failed to prove, he gave.
The following unusual limerick was composed by John Milnor, shortly after learning of several graduate students' frustration at completing a project where the work of every Princeton mathematics faculty member was to be summarized in a limerick:
“The perfidious lemma of Dehn, Was every topologist's bane
'Til Christos Papakyriakopoulos proved it without any strain.”
The phrase "without any strain" is not meant to indicate that Papa did not expend much energy in his efforts. Rather, it refers to Papa's "tower construction", which quite nicely circumvents much of the difficulty in the cut-and-paste efforts that preceded Papa's proof.
He was a reclusive character, spending most of his time in his office listening to his beloved Wagner. Legend has it that in the US he lived for 25 years in the same hotel room he used when he first arrived in the country, all of his belongings inside his original luggage. He died of cancer at age 62 in Princeton, New Jersey.
Dimitrios Trichopoulos. Born in Volos, Greece, in 1938, studied Medicine at the University of Athens and specialized in Internal Medicine, Microbiology, Public Health and Epidemiology at the Universities of Athens, London, Harvard, and Oxford. He has served as Professor and Director of the Department of Hygiene and Epidemiology of the University of Athens Medical School since 1972, as Chairman of the Department of Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health (1989-96), and as Director of the Harvard Center for Cancer Prevention (1993-97).
Dimitrios Trichopoulos has authored or co-authored over 800 publications (mainly research articles but also books, monographs, editorials, perspective articles, reports, reviews, commentaries, etc.) and became a leading figure in the fight against breast cancer for his work in breast cancer etiology. Moreover, he has published the first papers implicating passive smoking in the causation of lung cancer and chronic obstructive lung disease. He has also contributed to the elucidation of the etiology of hepatocellular carcinoma, the quantification of the association between psychological stress and coronary heart disease and the identification several dietary and other important risk factors in the etiology of a number of cancers and other diseases.