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Few people outside of mathematics are aware of the varieties of mathemat ical experience - the degree to which different mathematical subjects have different and distinctive flavors, often attractive to some mathematicians and repellant to others. The particular flavor of the subject of minimal surfaces seems to lie in a combination of the concreteness of the objects being studied, their origin and relation to the physical world, and the way they lie at the intersection of so many different parts of mathematics. In the past fifteen years a new component has been added: the availability of computer graphics to provide illustrations that are both mathematically instructive and esthetically pleas ing. During the course of the twentieth century, two major thrusts have played a seminal role in the evolution of minimal surface theory. The first is the work on the Plateau Problem, whose initial phase culminated in the solution for which Jesse Douglas was awarded one of the first two Fields Medals in 1936. (The other Fields Medal that year went to Lars V. Ahlfors for his contributions to complex analysis, including his important new insights in Nevanlinna Theory.) The second was the innovative approach to partial differential equations by Serge Bernstein, which led to the celebrated Bernstein's Theorem, stating that the only solution to the minimal surface equation over the whole plane is the trivial solution: a linear function.
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Osserman (Ed.) Geometry V Minimal Surfaces
The theory of minimal surfaces has expanded in many directions over the past decade or two. This volume gathers in one place an overview of some of the most exciting developments, presented by five of the leading contributors to those developments. Hirotaka Fujimoto, who obtained the definitive results on the Gauss map of minimal surfaces, reports on Nevanlinna Theory and Minimal Surfaces. Stefan Hildebrandt provides an up-to-date account of the Plateau problem and related boundary-value problems. David Hoffman and Hermann Karcher describe the wealth of results on embedded minimal surfaces from the past decade, starting with Costa's surface and the subsequent Hoffman-Meeks examples. Finally, Leon Simon covers the PDE aspect of minimal surfaces, with a survey of known results both in the classical case of surfaces and in the higher dimensional case. The book will be very useful as a reference and research guide to graduate students and researchers in mathematics.
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