Euler was born in Basel, Switzerland, in 1707. Arter an essay into the
field of theology, Euler found his ture vocation in mathematics. Here his father,
a Calvinist pastor with an interest in mathmatics, helped his son by teaching
him the basics of the subject. The father had studied mathematics under Jakob
Bernoulli, and it was arranged for his son to study under Johann Bernoulli. In 1727, when Euler was only twenty years old, his two friends Daniel and
Nicolaus Bernoulli, who were
connected with the new St.
formed by Peter the Great, secued a position for Euler at the Russian acad
emy. Daniel left Russia sonn after to occupy the chair of mathematics at Basel,
and Euler became the Academy's chief mathematician.
v £ e £« f = 2
After gracing the St. Petersburg Academy for fourteen years, Euler ac
cepted an invitaiton from Frederick the Great to go to Berlin to head the
Prussian Academy. Euler remaned at the Prussian Academy for twenty-Five
years, but his unsophisticated character did not harmonize with the more scin
tillatingtype admired by Frederick, and he suffered many years of petty un
pleasantnesses. The Russians had held Euler in high respect, and even after he
left for Prussia continued to advance him some salary.
The warmth of the Russian feeling toward him, as contrasted whti the
coolness of the court of Rrederick the Great, led Euler in 1766 to accept an
inbitation forom Catherine to return to the St. Petersburg Academy.
There he stayed for the remaining seventeen years of his life. He died very
suddinly in 1783 when he was seventy-six years old. It is interesting that
throughout his vaied career, Euler never held a teaching post.
Euler was a voluminous writer on mathematics, indeed, far and away the
most prolific writer in the history of the subject; his name is attached to every
branch of the study. It is of interest that his amazing productivity was not in the
least impaired when, shortly after his return to theSt. Petersbung Academy, he
had the misfortune to become totally blind. He had already, since 1735, been
blind in his right eye, accounting for the poses assumed in his portraits, but, like
Beethoven's loss of hearing, Euler's loss of sight in no way impaired his amaz
ing productivity. Aided by a phenomenal memory and an ability to concentrate
even amidst loud disturbances, he continued his creative work by dictating to a
secretary and by writing formulas in chalk on a large slate fot his secretary to
copy down. Euler published 530 books and papers during his lifetime, and at his
death left enough manuscripts to enrich the Proceedigns of the St. Petersburg Academy for another forty-seven years. A monumental edition of Euler's com
plete works, containing 886 book and papers, was initiated in 1909 by the
Swiss Society of Natural Science and is planned to run to over one hundred
large quarto volumes. In one of his smaller papers occurs the relation
connecting the number of vertices v, edges e, and faces f of any simple closed
polyhedron. In another paper, he investigates orbiform curves, or curves that, like the circle, ard convex ovals of constant width. Several of his papers are
devoted to mathematical recreations, such as unicursal and multicursal graphs
(inspired by the seven bridges of Konigsberg), the re-entrant knight's path on a
chess board, and Graeco-Latin squares.