A Lost Mathematician, Takeo Nakasawa

The Forgotten Father of Matroid Theory

  • Hirokazu Nishimura
  • Susumu Kuroda

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages I-XII
  2. The Life of Takeo Nakasawa

  3. South Manchurian Railway Company (1906–1945)

  4. The Road to the Fifteen Years War (1931–1945)

  5. The Fifteen Years War (1931–1945)

  6. Mathematics around Takeo Nakasawa

  7. Chronological Tables

    1. Pages 61-63
  8. Works of Takeo Nakasawa

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 65-65
    2. Von Takeo Nakasawa
      Pages 67-88
    3. Von Takeo Nakasawa
      Pages 89-114
    4. Takeo Von Nakasawa
      Pages 115-129
    5. Takeo Von Nakasawa
      Pages 131-143
    6. Takeo Nakasawa
      Pages 205-221
    7. Takeo Nakasawa
      Pages 223-234

About this book


Matroid theory was invented in the middle of the 1930s by two mathematicians independently, namely, Hassler Whitney in the USA and Takeo Nakasawa in Japan. Whitney became famous, but Nakasawa remained anonymous until two decades ago. He left only four papers to the mathematical community, all of them written in the middle of the 1930s. It was a bad time to have lived in a country that had become as eccentric as possible. Just as Nazism became more and more flamboyant in Europe in the 1930s, Japan became more and more esoteric and fanatical in the same time period. This book explains the little that is known about Nakasawa’s personal life in a Japan that had, among other failures, lost control over its military. We do not know what forces caused him to be discharged from the Tokyo University of Arts and Sciences. His work was considered brilliant, his papers superb, if somewhat unconventional and mysterious in notation. We do know that, in the latter half of the 1930s, forced to give up his mathematical career, he chose to live as a bureaucrat in Manchuria, at that time a puppet state of Japan. He died in 1946 at Khavarovsk, at the age of 33, after one year of forced labor in Siberian and other USSR camps, without sufficient food or shelter to protect his health. This book contains his four papers in German and their English translations as well as some extended commentary on the history of Japan during those years. The book also contains 14 photos of him or his family. Although the veil of mystery surrounding Nakasawa’s life has only been partially lifted, the work presented in this book speaks eloquently of a tragic loss to the mathematical community.


Combinatorics History of Mathematics Linear Algebra Linear Independence Manchuria Matroid Theory Nakasawa, Takeo Pacific War Whitney, Hassler mathematics

Editors and affiliations

  • Hirokazu Nishimura
    • 1
  • Susumu Kuroda
    • 2
  1. 1.Dept. MathematicsUniversity TsukubaTsukuba Ibaraki-kenJapan
  2. 2.PassauGermany

Bibliographic information