A man of awesome mathematical stature and talent, Carl Friedrich Gauss
straddled the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries like a mathematical Colossus
of Rhodes. He is universally regarded as the greatest mathematician of the
nineteenth century and, along with Archimedes and Isaac Newton, as one of
the three greatest mathematicians of all time. Carl was born in Brunswick, Germany, in 1777. His Father was a hardworking laborer with stubborn
views of education. His
mother however, though uneducated herself, encouraged the boy in his
and maintained a lifelong pride in her son's achievements.
Carl was one of those remarkable infant prodigies who appear from time to
time. It is said that at the age of three he detected an arithmetic error in his
father's bookkeeping. There is a story that when Carl was ten years old and in
the public schools, his teacher, to keep the class occupied. set the pupils to
adding the numbers through 100. Almost immediately, Carl placed his slate on the
annoyed teacher's desk. When all the slates were finally turned in, the
amazed teacher found that Carl alone had the correct answer, 5050, but with no
accompanying calculation. Carl had mentally summed the arithmetic
progression 1 + 2 + 3 + · · · + 98 + 99+ 100 by noting that 100+1=101, 99 + 2 = 101,
98 + 3 = 101, and so on for fifty such pairs, whence the answer is 50¡¿101,
or 5050. Later in life, Gauss used to claim jocularly that he could figure before
he could talk. Georgius V. rex Hannoverge
It has been said that it was Gauss discovery, at
the age of nineteen, that a regular polygon of seventeen sides can be constructed with straightedge
and compasses that decided him to devote his life to mathematics.
Gauss' greatest single publication is his Disquisitiones arithmeticae,
a work of fundamental importance in the modern theory of numbers.
Gauss made notable contributions to astronomy, geodesy, and electricity.
In 1801, he calculated, by a new procedure and from meager data, the orbit of
the then recently discovered planetoid Ceres and in the following year, that of
the planetoid Pallas. In 1807, he became professor of mathematics and director
of the observatory at Gottingen, a post that he held until his death. In 1821, he
carried out a triangulation of Hanover, measured a meridional arc, and
invented the heliotrope (or heliograph). In 1831, he commenced collaboration
with his colleague Wilhelm Weber(1804-1891)in basic research in electricity
and magnetism; in 1833, the two scientists devised the electromagnetic telegraph.
In 1812, in a paper on hypergeometric series, Gauss made the first systematic
investigation of the convergence of a series. Gauss masterpiece on surface
theory, his Disquisitiones generales circa superficies curvas,appeared in 1827,
and inaugurated the study of the intrinsic geometry of surfaces in space.
Famous is Gauss' assertion that "mathematics is the queen of the sciences and
the theory of numbers is the queen of mathematics." Gauss has been described as "the mathematical giant who from his lofty heights embraces
in one view the stars and the abysses." In his scientific writing, Gauss was a perfectionist. Claiming that a cathedral is not a cathedral until the last piece of
scaffolding is removed, he strove to make each of his works complete, concise,
polished and convincing with every trace of the analysis by which he reached
his results removed.
Gauss died in his home at the Gottingen Observatory on February 23,
1855, and right after, the King of Hanover ordered that a commemorative
medal be prepared in honor of Gauss. This seventy-millimeter medal was in
time(1877) completed by the well-known sculptor and medalist, Friedrich
Brehmer, of Hanover. On it appears the inscription:
(George V. King of Hanover
to the Prince of mathematicians)