mathematics

August Leopold Crelle and his Journal

August Leopold Crelle and his Journal

On March 11, 1780, German mathematician and civil engineer August Leopold Crelle was born. Crelle is best known for being the founder of Journal für die reine und angewandte Mathematik (also known as Crelle’s Journal). He also worked on the construction and planning of roads and the first railway in Germany, which was completed in 1838. “The real purpose of mathematics is to be the means to illuminate reason and to exercise spiritual…
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John Pell and the Obelus

John Pell and the Obelus

On March 1, 1611, English mathematician John Pell was born. Pell introduced the division sign (obelus, ÷) into England. The obelus was first used by Johann Rahn (1622-1676) in 1659 in Teutsche Algebra. Rahn’s book was interpreted into English and published, with additions made by John Pell. John Pell – Early Years Pell was born in Southwick in Sussex, where his father of the same name, John Pell, was pastor and rector; his…
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Émile Borel and the Infinite Monkey Problem

Émile Borel and the Infinite Monkey Problem

On January 7, 1871, French mathematician Félix Édouard Justin Émile Borel was born. Borel is known for his founding work in the areas of measure theory and probability. In one of his books on probability, he proposed the thought experiment that a monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard will – with absolute certainty – eventually type every book in France’s Bibliothèque nationale de France (National Library). This is now…
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The Short Life of Srinivasa Ramanujan

The Short Life of Srinivasa Ramanujan

On December 22, 1887, Indian mathematician and autodidact Srinivasa Ramanujan was born. Though he had almost no formal training in pure mathematics, he made major contributions to mathematical analysis, number theory, infinite series, and continued fractions. Supported by English mathematician G. H. Hardy from Cambridge, Ramanujan independently compiled nearly 3,900 results during his short life, which all have been proven correct. “Sir, an equation has no meaning for me unless it expresses…
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G. H. Hardy and the aesthetics of Mathematics

G. H. Hardy and the aesthetics of Mathematics

On December 1, 1947, English mathematician G. H. Hardy passed away. Hardy is known for his achievements in number theory and mathematical analysis, but also for his 1940 essay on the aesthetics of mathematics, A Mathematician’s Apology, and for mentoring the brilliant Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan. “A mathematician … has no material to work with but ideas, and so his patterns are likely to last longer, since ideas wear less with time…
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Lewis Fry Richardson and the accurate Weather Forecast

Lewis Fry Richardson and the accurate Weather Forecast

On October 11, 1811, English mathematician, physicist, meteorologist, psychologist and pacifist Lewis Fry Richardsen was born. Richardson pioneered modern mathematical techniques of weather forecasting, and the application of similar techniques to studying the causes of wars and how to prevent them. He is also noted for his pioneering work concerning fractals and a method for solving a system of linear equations known as modified Richardson iteration. Lewis Fry Richardson – Early Years Lewis Fry Richardson…
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Johann Heinrich Lambert – A Swiss Polymath

Johann Heinrich Lambert – A Swiss Polymath

On August 26, 1728, Swiss polymath Johann Heinrich Lambert was born. Lambert provided the first rigorous proof that pi is irrational (i.e. it cannot be expressed as the quotient of two integers). He also was the first to introduce hyperbolic functions into trigonometry as well as the first mathematician to address the general properties of map projections. He also made significant contributions to physics, philosophy, and logic. “We would wish to discover the…
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Gerbert of Aurillac and the Popularization of Science

Gerbert of Aurillac and the Popularization of Science

On May 12, 1003, Gerbert of Aurillac aka Pope Sylvester II passed away. A prolific scholar and teacher, he endorsed and promoted study of Arab and Greco-Roman arithmetic, mathematics, and astronomy, reintroducing to Europe the abacus and armillary sphere, which had been lost to Latin Europe since the end of the Greco-Roman era. He is said to be the first to introduce in Europe the decimal numeral system using Arabic numerals. Gerbert…
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Leonardo Da Vinci – the Prototype of a Renaissance Man

Leonardo Da Vinci – the Prototype of a Renaissance Man

On May 2, 1519, Italian Renaissance polymath Leonardo da Vinci passed away. Leonardo’s areas of interest included invention, painting, sculpting, architecture, science, music, mathematics, engineering, literature, anatomy, geology, astronomy, botany, writing, history, and cartography. He has been variously called the father of paleontology, ichnology, and architecture, and is widely considered one of the greatest painters of all time. “Painting is poetry which is seen and not heard, and poetry is a painting…
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Pierre Bouguer – Child Prodigy and ‘Father of Photometry’

Pierre Bouguer – Child Prodigy and ‘Father of Photometry’

On February 16, 1698, French mathematician, geophysicist, geodesist, and astronomerPierre Bouguer was born. In 1735 Bouguer sailed with Charles Marie de La Condamine on a scientific mission to Peru, in order to measure a degree of the meridian arc near the equator. He is also known as “the father of naval architecture” and the “father of photometry“. Pierre Bouguer – Early Life Pierre Bouguer was born in Le Croisic at the French Atlantic…
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