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Mihailo Petrovic - Alas

By Professor Zoran Radosavljevic,
Faculty of Electrical Engineering, University of Belgrade

Believe it or not, this bust we are standing before is the bust of a mathematician - Mihailo Petrovic, better known in Belgrade and Serbia as Mika Alas (Mike Fisher).

Mihailo Petrovic was a prominent mathematician, member of many European academies of science and welcome guest at many European universities. Having defended his doctoral dissertation in Paris, at Sorbonne, in 1894, at the age of 26, he became professor of Belgrade University and in the next, nearly, 50 years published many books and more than 250 articles in various fields of mathematics: classical analysis, differential equations, inequalities, numerical analysis, polynomial theory, mathematical phenomenology, mathematical philosophy and many others. He is the true father of modern Serbian mathematics, the founder of so-called Belgrade mathematical school and a teacher of generations of Serbian mathematicians. During his life almost all doctors of mathematics in Serbia were his students. The founder of our Publications, the late Professor Dragoslav Mitrinovic, was also his student, and this 50th anniversary of Publications is not only our feast, but also something that does credit to our great predecessors.

Mihailo Petrovic lived in this house we are standing outside, and his study was the room with the balcony. He was born in a smaller house, which stood at the place of this one; later, it was knocked down and substituted by this house, which means that he spent his whole life at this place. He lived here with his sister and her family, because he was an inveterate bachelor.

Besides being an excellent mathematician, Mihailo Petrovic was a vivid and outstanding personality, a respected and popular citizen of old Belgrade. He was a passionate fisherman, a master of fishing, and many people who had nothing to do with mathematics knew him as Mika Alas - Mike Fisher. ( You can see the sign of this passion - two fishes on his house door). There were days when he used to cease being a professor, put on his fishing clothes and go fishing together with his friends - fishermen of the banks of Sava and Danube.

He liked spending evenings in Belgrade inns with music. He perfectly played the violin and even used to compose. One of the songs he composed can still be heard in inns that cultivate old city music.

In 1941, when Germany attacked the former Yugoslavia, at the age of 73 he joined the army as the chief encoder of the High Command. He was captured and kept prisoner in a camp in Germany. Since he was badly ill, Germans released him in 1943 and he came back home. He died a few months later, in this house, under the German occupation. I am sure he would be very happy today to see such a number of prominent mathematicians, gathered outside his house, on such a happy occasion as the 50th anniversary of our mathematical journal.

MAGT 2006, Belgrade