Niels Henrick Abel, one of the foremost mathematicians of the 19th century, was born in Norway on August 5, 1802. At the age of 16, he began reading the classic mathematical works of Newton, Euler, Lagrange, and Gauss. When Abel was 18 years old, his father died and the burden of supporting the family fell upon him. He took in private pupils and did odd jobs, while continuing to do mathematical research. At the age of 19, Abel solved a problem that had vexed leading mathematicians for hundreds of years. He proved that, unlike the situation for equations of degree 4 or less, there is no finite (closed) formula for the solution of the general fifth-degree equation.
Although Abel died long before the advent of the subjects that now comprise abstract algebra, his solution to the quintic problem laid ground work for many of these subjects. In addition to his work in the theory of equations, Abel made outstanding contributions to the theory of elliptic functions, elliptic integrals, Abelian integrals, and infinite series. Just when his work has beginning to receive that attention it deserved, Abel contracted tuberculosis. He died on April 6, 1829, at the age of 26. In 1870, Camille Jordan introduced the term Abelian group to honor Abel. Norway has issued five stamps and a 500-kroner bank note to honor Abel.(1)