Tobias Dantzig was born in Latvia in 1884. As a young man, he was caught distributing anti-Tsar propaganda and fled to Paris, where he studied under Henri Poincaré. He moved to the United States in 1910 and took a job as a lumberjack in the forests of Oregon. He received his Ph.D. in mathematics from Indiana University in 1916, and taught at Johns Hopkins, Columbia University, and the University of Maryland. He died in 1956.