Charles Hermite’s admiration for simple beauty in Mathematics

Charles Hermite

Charles Hermite 1887

On December 24, 1821, French mathematician Charles Hermite was born. He was the first to prove that e, the base of natural logarithms, is a transcendental number. Furthermore, he is famous for his work in the theory of functions including the application of elliptic functions and his provision of the first solution to the general equation of the fifth degree, the quintic equation.

Charles Hermite studied at the Collège de Nancy, at the Collège Henri IV in Paris, and at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand. He entered the École Polytechniqu in 1842 but was refused to continue his education there due to a disability in his right foot. Hermite began corresponding with Carl Jacobi around 1843, which resulted in a fruitful working relationship.

Hermite spent about five years working on baccalauréat privately and returned to the École Polytechnique as répétiteur and examinateur d’admission in 1848. On July 14 1856, Hermite was elected to fill the vacancy created by the death of Jacques Binet in the Académie des Sciences and in the late 1860s, he succeeded Jean-Marie Duhamel as professor of mathematics, both at the École Polytechnique, where he remained until 1876, and in the Faculty of Sciences of Paris, which was a post he occupied until his death. Charles Hermite passed away on January 14, 1901.

Hermite had the reputation of being a great teacher and his published lectures had a wide influence in the field of mathematics. His contributions to mathematics were published in the most important scientific journals of the time and they dealt with Abelian and ecliptic functions as well as the theory of numbers. He managed to solve the fifth degree by elliptic functions in the 1870s and he proved e, the base of the natural system of logarithms to be transcendental.

At yovisto, you may enjoy the video lecture “History of Mathematics in 50 Minutes” by John Dersch.

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