Walter Ledermann passed away peacefully on 22 May 2009 in London less than two years short of his 100th birthday. He was born into a Jewish family in Berlin on 18 March 1911, the second of four children. His father, William Ledermann, was a medical doctor and his mother, Charlotte née Apt, was the daughter of a wealthy metal merchant. He entered the Köllnisches Gymnasium in Berlin in 1917, progressing to the Leibniz Gymnasium in the same city in 1920. There he learnt classics, studying Latin for nine years and Greek for six years. The school also taught French but, as was usual at this time, not much science. Although very little mathematics was taught in German schools in general at this time, Walter had the advantage that the Leibniz Gymnasium taught more mathematics than other schools as a mark of respect for Gottfried von Leibniz after whom the school was named. He enjoyed studying the classics, especially Greek with its wonderful literature, but became fascinated by mathematics from his first lesson at the age of eleven. From that time on he decided to make mathematics his career. Also from age 11 he began learning to play the violin, the cost of a lesson in these times of hyperinflation being set at the cost of a loaf of white bread. Music played a large role in Ledermann’s life from that time on.
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