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The ultimate math gurus

EUCLID (ca 322-275 BC) EGYPT

EUCLID (ca 322-275 BC) EGYPT

Founder of the school of mathematics at the great university of Alexandria in Egypt, his text book The Elementswas used in schools for 2,000 years and even today forms the basis of geometry. He also worked on numbers — he proved that there are infinite prime numbers, developed the unique factorisation theorem and devised the algorithm for calculating the greatest common denominator. After thoroughly studying Euclid, Abraham Lincoln said, “I then found out what demonstrate means, and went back to my law studies. ”


Despite the lack of good mathematical notation in his day, he made significant advances in number theory, algebra, and most famously, in theorems of plane and solid geometry. His books include Floating Bodies, Spirals and Measurement of the Circle. Modern technology has led to the discovery of new writings by Archimedes, hidden on a palimpsest, including a note that implies an understanding of the distinction between countable and uncountable infinities. Plutarch said of Archimedes: “ He placed his whole ambition in those speculations of beauty and subtlety which are untainted by any admixture of the common needs of life. ”


Apart from the laws of motion and gravitation, optics and thermodynamics, he was one of the greatest mathematicians, having invented calculus, and developed important aspects of geometry, analytic geometry, binomial theorem, power series, and of course, like all mathematicians, he calculated the value of pi.


Euler gave us modern trigonometry. With Lagrange he pioneered the calculus of variations. He invented graph theory and generating functions. Euler was also first to prove many interesting theorems of geometry. Four of the most important mathematical constant symbols — pi, e (exponential), i (root minus one) and gamma — were introduced or popularised by Euler. His concentration was phenomenal: even when totally blind, he devised a method to calculate the moon’s orbit (Newton had failed) and settled a controversy by calculating a series with 50 decimal places. Francois Arago said, "Euler calculated without apparent effort, as men breathe, or as eagles sustain themselves in the wind. "


A child prodigy, he corrected his father’s accounts at age 3, questioned Euclid at age 12, and published Disquisitiones Arithmeticae, one of the greatest books in maths, at age 24. Gauss built the theory of complex numbers, the fundamental theorem of algebra, hypergeometric series, foundations of statistics, and differential geometry, non-Euclidean geometry, topology, the law of least squares and Fourier series. Gauss once wrote "When I have clarified and exhausted a subject, then I turn away from it, in order to go into darkness again. . . "

Reader's opinion (2)

Vivek GopinathanJul 3rd, 2011 at 11:04 AM

What about our very own masters?

Sayani MajumdarNov 17th, 2010 at 01:47 AM

The real art of a genius is to deduce the apparent from the inobvious & make all the work seem effortless afterwards. Mathematics has spawned numerous such greats who have solved problems of their time & also given us novel paradigms to work upon. A salute to all such greats, fabled & unsung alike.

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