Kurt Hensel, born in Königsberg, studied mathematics in Berlin and Bonn, under Kronecker and Weierstrass; Leopold Kronecker was his doctoral supervisor. In 1901, Hensel was appointed to a full professorship at the University of Marburg. He spent the rest of his career there, retiring in 1930.

Hensel is best known for his introduction of the *p*-adic numbers. They evoked little interest at first but later became increasingly important in number theory and other fields. Today, *p*-adics are considered by number theorists as being “just as good as the real numbers”. Hensel’s *p*-adics were first described in 1897, and much more completely in his books, *Theorie der algebraischen Zahlen*, published in 1908 and *Zahlentheorie* published in 1913.