© 2012

Iris Runge

A Life at the Crossroads of Mathematics, Science, and Industry

  • The book illuminates the beginnings of industrial mathematics and its international context, the history of the application of mathematical statistics, and the use of numerical and graphical methods in filament bulb and electron tube laboratories

  • Using many original sources, the book provides a comprehensive illustration of a woman scientist (the eldest daughter of the famous mathematician Carl Runge, and the sister-in-law of Richard Courant) who wrote her first publication as a student with the theoretical physicist Arnold Sommerfeld. Not only did she work enthusiastically in the field of applied mathematics, but she also developed and maintained counter-cultural social attitudes during periods of political unrest

  • The book shows how the international center of mathematics and natural sciences at Göttingen University was established by Felix Klein and how it established the foundation for using and developing new mathematical methods for the benefit of such fields as electrical engineering and physical chemistry

  • The book sheds new light on the history of the electrical industry – especially vacuum tube laboratories – and on the interdisciplinary collaboration between mathematicians, physicists, chemists and electrical engineers; on history of secondary and higher education in Germany; and on the process of emigration during the Nazi era


Part of the Science Networks. Historical Studies book series (SNHS, volume 43)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xxii
  2. Renate Tobies
    Pages 1-20
  3. Renate Tobies
    Pages 21-140
  4. Renate Tobies
    Pages 141-292
  5. Renate Tobies
    Pages 345-360
  6. Back Matter
    Pages 361-446

About this book


This book concerns the origins of mathematical problem solving at the internationally active Osram and Telefunken Corporations during the golden years of broadcasting and electron tube research. The woman scientist Iris Runge, who received an interdisciplinary education at the University of Göttingen, was long employed as the sole mathematical authority at these companies in Berlin. It will be shown how mathematical connections were made between statistics and quality control, and between physical-chemical models and the actual problems of mass production. The organization of industrial laboratories, the relationship between theoretical and experimental work, and the role of mathematicians in these settings will also be explained. By investigating the social, economic, and political conditions that unfolded from the time of the German Empire until the end of the Second World War, the book hopes to build a bridge between specialized fields – mathematics and engineering – and the general culture of a particular era. It hopes, furthermore, to build a bridge between the history of science and industry, on the one hand, and the fields of Gender and Women’s Studies on the other. Finally, by examining the life and work of numerous industrial researchers, insight will be offered into the conditions that enabled a woman to achieve a prominent professional position during a time when women were typically excluded from the scientific workforce.


Iris Runge Osram economic mathematics technical mathematics

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.JenaGermany

Bibliographic information

Industry Sectors
Finance, Business & Banking


“The book is a very thoroughly researched book. … There are many notes in the book and luckily they are at the bottom of each page. They refer to a very long bibliography. … I can highly recommend this book. Iris Runge is an accomplished, interesting and sympathetic woman to get to know.” (Else Høyrup, AWM Newsletter, Vol. 46 (3), May-June, 2016)

“This book deals with the life of Iris Runge … whose name is attached to the well-known Runga-Kutta [sic] technique for solving differential equations. … This book will definitely be of interest to mathematical historians as well as researchers of gender studies.” (Michael De Villiers, The Mathematical Gazette, Vol. 98 (541), March, 2014)

“This book is devoted to a description of Iris Runge’s career as an industrial mathematician, which was pioneering in several respects. … In this scholarly work, with its rich collection of footnotes, photographs and references, the author has taken great pains to document the various aspects of Iris Runge’s life and career.” (Martin Muldoon, Bulletin of the Canadian Society for History and Philosophy of Mathematics, Issue 50, May, 2012)

“This is the English version of the biography of Iris Runge (1888-1966), the daughter of the Göttingen pioneer of applied mathematics Carl Runge (1856-1927), published originally in German … . The book is thoroughly researched and contains an extensive bibliography of over 30 pages. It covers with an interesting biographical case study the hitherto almost unexplored topic of the history of industrial mathematics and can be highly recommended.” (Reinhard Siegmund-Schultze, Zentralblatt MATH, Vol. 1236, 2012)