From mathematics to psychophysics: David Hilbert and the "Fechner case"

  • Mauro Antonelli
  • Verena Zudini


David Hilbert (1862-1943), the great mathematician from Königsberg and Göttingen, is a relevant figure in the science of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, who marked the development of not only mathematical but also physical activities. We present here a sketch of Hilbert’s figure and work, in particular of his contribution to the debate which ensued after the publication of Elemente and the program of psychophysics by Fechner. In his lecture course Logische Principien des mathematischen Denkens, held at the University of Göttingen in 1905, Hilbert proposed an axiomatization of psychophysics. This formulation may be seen as an interesting case of Hilbert’s famous axiomatic approach in natural science.

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