It was a meeting of giants. Except that one of the two was still a child. The 59-year-old Jules Verne and the 14-year-old Konstantinos Karatheodoris in the same place! It is the autumn of 1887, in Belgium, and Karatheodoris stands in awe of Verne. The second writes in the album of the first: “To Mr. Kostia Karatheodoris, very happy that I was able, passing through Brussels, to leave this testimony of all my sympathy, Jules Verne, September 24.”

Could Verne have imagined that the teenager in front of him would develop into one of the greatest mathematicians of all time? The man whose help Albert Einstein would seek to formulate the mathematical proof of the Special Theory of Relativity? Unknown. What is certain is that it inspired the teenager to continue pursuing his newfound passion: mathematics.

“In his own way, (Jules Verne) encouraged me to continue reading and doing mathematics, but also in general to try to progress. I admired Jules Verne so much… Most of his novels contained knowledge of mathematics and physics, although he himself had studied neither. His imagination was galloping (…)! After all, the spark of imagination is what ignites every scientific discovery, even if this is not visible to the world, which treats us, scientists, as perfectly rational beings” says Konstantinos Karatheodoris, inwith a virtual interview of which is based on data from various historical sources and is “broadcast” every day at the NOISIS Center for the Dissemination of Science and Technology Museum in Thessaloniki – where the actor Kriton Zachariadis, in the role of Karatheodoris, responds with the help of technology – through an 82-inch screen , vertically placed- in 25 questions about the life and work of the influential Greek scientist, who – among others – has collaborated with the famous physicist Max Planckfather of quantum theory.

The great-nephew of Karatheodoris, who with his works reached the “heart” of the Boeing 747 and all the way to Space

Konstantinos – who had lost his mother to pneumonia when he was only six years old and grew up with his grandmother, Ethalia Petrokokkinou, with wonderful memories of his childhood summers in Chios – was not, however, the only brilliant mind born in the family’s bosom of Karatheodoris. In Nea Vyssa, as part of the cooperation of the municipality of Orestiada with the company “Digital Innovations”, the Karatheodoris Museum has been operating since last year, where, in addition to the world-renowned mathematician, the visitor can see portraits of five more members of the family, who left their own lasting stigma. “Three generations before and two generations after Konstantinos, great personalities were born in the Karatheodoris family” Nikos Pakhtas, founder of “Digital Innovations”, which is “responsible” for the magical touch of technology and multimedia in the digital exhibits concerning Caratheodoris, both in NOISIS and in Orestiada. The texts of the interviews were written by Nikos Pachtas together with Aphrodite Kamara, the videography was done by Eleni Pneumatikou and the construction of the installation by Vassilis Matsos.

In the Orestiada is presented – among others – the portrait of Ioannis Argyris, born in 1913, son of Nikolaos Chatziargyris and Loukias Karatheodoris, niece of the famous mathematician. Ioannis Argyris is considered one of the greatest scientific personalities worldwide in the field of Computational Engineering. Among other things, in the 1960s he was responsible for the thermal shielding of the “Apollo” spacecraft from the high temperatures that develop in the vessel’s shell, during its re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere.

He is one of the main creators of the finite element method, a fundamental calculation method in the field of engineering. The famous airplane manufacturer Boeing had requested his help in designing the wings of the largest aircraft of the time, the Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet, in the early 1960s. Accordingly, his contribution to the analysis of the cable roof of the Olympic Stadium in Munich is considered decisive for the organization of the 1972 Olympic Games. Ioannis Argyris is considered one of the first programmers in the world and – among other things – programmed the top-secret British computer Colosso 1, whose existence only became known in the 1970s – for this reason, that its existence was hidden for years, the history books have mistakenly recorded ENIAC as the first electronic computer. Ioannis Argyris was the beloved great-nephew of the mathematician Konstantinos Karatheodoris, although he often angered him with his revolutionary character” points out the founder of “Digital Innovations”, whose executives devoted a long time to researching Konstantinos Karatheodoris and his family .

A member of the Karatheodoris family was also Stefanos Deltas, son of Georgios Deltas and Sophia Karatheodoris, a populist and close friend of Delmouzou, who was born in Constantinople in 1863 and, together with Emmanuel Benakis, are considered the fathers of the Athens College. Stefanos, who – among other things – was the first manager of the Agricultural Bank, married Penelope Delta in 1895. “It is said that he was the one who brought Penelope into close contact with the literary community of the time” points out Nikos Pachtas. However, the thread of the family’s achievements can already be traced back to the time of the son of its progenitor, Stefanos Karatheodoris, who became the personal physician of Sultan Mahmut II and founder of the imperial medical outfit of Constantinople.

But let’s look at some more excerpts from the virtual interviews of Karatheodoris, which can be enjoyed by visitors in Thessaloniki and Nea Vyssa Orestiada, where the Karatheodoris museum was inaugurated by the President of the Republic, Ekaterini Sakelaropoulou, in April 2022.


ER. What were your initial studies and how did you use them?

AP I started my studies in the field of engineering. It was a time of great technical progress and scientists and engineers were doing great! I entered the Belgian Military School in 1891 to study engineering and graduated in 1895 as an Artillery and Engineer officer. (…) When I was already a qualified engineer, I was offered a collaboration by the English company that was building the Aswan Dam on the Nile River. The proposal was good, the subject interesting and so I left for Egypt. There, in my spare time, I combined my knowledge of engineering with my interest in archeology and history and began to measure the pyramids. It was my studies in engineering and applied science that essentially showed me the way to mathematics.

Karatheodoris Museum

ER. Do you think Einstein stole your ideas and glory, as some quarters claim?

AP Of course not! Albert Einstein is a brilliant scientist and I had the honor of once asking for my help with a math problem. You have to realize that all of us who work in mathematics and theoretical physics sometimes approach a problem intuitively at first. In other words, we perceive a phenomenon, which we then try to describe and above all to prove through the already formulated scientific laws and methods. This also happened with the General Theory of Relativity. Einstein had proved the Special Theory of Relativity in 1905, the year I had just received my PhD in Mathematics. For the mathematical proof of the General Theory of Relativity, he had asked for my help. You see, Einstein was a physicist, not a mathematician. As I delayed replying to him, when a few days later I sent him the mathematical proof, he could no longer include it in the paper he had already published. That’s all. In no way would I claim authorship of the formulation of the Theory of Relativity.

Karatheodoris Museum

ER. What was your relationship with Eleftherios Venizelos?

AP I met him in 1895. I had just finished my studies as an engineer and had gone to Crete for a while, a guest of my uncle, Alexander, who had been appointed surveyor there by the Ottoman Government. Things were not going well for him, and he needed reinforcements. The Muslims of Crete accused him of favoring Christians and refused to obey him. Venizelos was then in his thirties, in his enthusiasm, a pioneer of the movements for the union of Crete with Greece. I seem to have made an impression on him. The fact is, however, that about a quarter of a century later, in 1919, when the Greek army landed in Smyrna, Venizelos called me to entrust me with the organization of the Ionian University. Unfortunately the Asia Minor Disaster overturned the ambitious plan, but Venizelos insisted that I return to Greece and work at the University of Athens. For a short time, as it turned out…

ER. You were in Smyrna in 1922. How did you react?

AP (…) On August 23, I called my colleagues and announced to them that we should close the University and leave. I gave them letters of recommendation to further their careers. I had taken care to gather and pack the laboratory equipment and the most important books of the library. I handed over the boxes to Professor Dimitrios Chondros and the key to the building to Colonel Nikolaos Plastiras. At the same time, I made sure to remove my family as well, I sent them to Athens. The next day the Greek army entered Smyrna. The soldiers told us about the atrocities that took place in the rear. We also heard them from elsewhere, from the refugees who arrived from everywhere with bogus and billions. And yet the authorities told us not to worry and that Smyrna would not be abandoned (…) On September 5, the Greek troops left and the Turkish soldiers entered the city (…) I was left on the waterfront unable to accept the size of calamity. I would have been lost too, but I was saved by an acquaintance of mine, who called me to get into his boat. It took us ten days to reach Piraeus…

The “presence” of Karatheodoris at NOISIS is a permanent exhibit from October 2022. There, the famous Greek mathematician is a neighbor of the Serbian engineer and inventor Nikola Tesla, who gives his own virtual interview to visitors. For Nikos Pachtas, however, a personal dream is to “speak” from the past to give inspiration for the future and other personalities of science, from Archimedes to Marie Curie. After all, the positive sciences are everywhere. For this reason, and in the area of ​​the Caratheodoris Museum in Orestiada, there is an interactive application, which aims to overcome the phobia of mathematics and explains in what ways it can be detected in a score with notes, in the face of Botticelli’s Venus or in the shell of a sea ​​nautilus…