Numericana Hall of Fame
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Here is a chronological list of a few mathematicians and scientists whose towering
achievements have helped shape the Science of their times and ours.  [ Nominate ]

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Giants  of  Science


50-word Biographies   ( © 2003-2014  Gérard P. Michon, Ph.D.)

 Thales of Miletus Thales of Miletus, engineer   (c. 624-546 BC)

First sage of Greece, he founded classical geometry and  natural philosophy.  Alchemists have claimed him as one of theirs.  The theorem of Thales  (one of two)  is about two triangles with parallel sides:  The pyramid's shadow is to the pyramid what a man's shadow is to the man  [wow].

Earliest Mathematics   |   MacTutor   |   Wikipedia   |   Weisstein   |   Facebook Fans


 The Tetractys

 Pythagoras of Samos Pythagoras of Samos   (c. 569-475 BC)

In Croton, he founded the  mystic  cult of the  Phythagoreans, whose initiated members called themselves  mathematikoi.  They are credited with the first proof of the  Pythagorean Theorem  (itself known to the Chaldeans 1000 years before).

Tetractys   |   Constant of Pythagoras   |   MacTutor   |   Weisstein   |   Facebook Fans

 Swift-footed Achilles and the Tortoise

 Zeno of Elea Zeno of Elea  (c. 490-425 BC)

In the most famous of his provocative paradoxes, Zeno asks how  swift-footed Achilles  could overcome a tortoise, since Achilles must first reach the initial position of the tortoise...  By the time he gets there, the animal is elsewhere and Achilles is left with a similar challenge,  ad infinitum.

Tortoise coordinates (GR)  |  Zeno's arrow  |  Quantum Zeno effect  |  MacTutor  |  Wikipedia  |  Stanford  |  Weisstein


 Democritus of Abdera Democritus of Abdera   (c. 460-370 BC)

The  atomists'  school in Abdera was founded by his teacher  Leucippus,  himself a student of Zeno and a proponent of the law of causality.  Democritus argued that all was made of indivisible  atoms  moving in the void.  One of his followers, the alchemist  Bolus of Mendes,  also signed "Democritus".

Pseudo-Democritus alchemical corpus (still?)  |  MacTutor  |  Wikipedia  |  Stanford  |  Weisstein  |  NNDB  |  video


 Hippocrates of Cos Hippocrates of Cos,  physician   (c. 450-377 BC)

Revolutionary founder of Western medicine.  An  asclepiad,  said to be a direct descendant  (17 or 19 generations)  of the legendary AesclepiusHippocrates  studied philosophy under Democritus and learned rudiments of medicine from his father, Heraclides, and from  Herodicus of Selymbria.

The 4 Humors of Hippocrates   |   Wikipedia   |   IEP   |   NNDB


 Archytas of Tarentum Archytas of Tarentum  (428-347 BC)

A statesman taught by  Philolaus  (student of Pythagoras)  he taught EudoxusArchytas  considered surfaces generated by rotating curves and could double the cube by intersecting three of those  (defining  Archytas' curve  in the process).

Math Men   |   MacTutor   |   Wikipedia


 Plato Plato   (427-347 BC)

On a land whose former owner was called Akademos,  Plato created the very first institution of higher learning.  His  Academia  lasted from 387 BC to AD 529  (1015 years).  Initiation to Geometry was an entrance requirement.  The aim was to teach or discover ideal laws behind appearances.

MacTutor   |   Wikipedia   |   Weisstein   |   NNDB


 Eudoxus of Cnidus Eudoxus of Cnidus  (408-355 BC)

His definition of the comparison between ratios of (possibly irrational) numbers, as recorded by Euclid, would inspire the rigorous definition of real numbers by  Dedekind in 1872.  He invented the  method of exhaustion  which  Archimedes  built on.  He was the first Greek scholar to map the stars.

Spheres of Eudoxus by J.L.E Dreyer   |   MacTutor   |   Wikipedia   |   Weisstein   |   NNDB


 Aristotle of Stagira Aristotle of Stagira,  logician   (384-322 BC)

He was the undisputed authority on  natural philosophy  for two millenia or so.  The lack of discussion of that authority hindered the development of natural Science more than any other single factor, with the possible exception of Church doctrine  (of which some Aristotelian concepts were a part).

Classical elements  |  Plenism  |  Aristotelian mechanics  |  MacTutor  |  Wikipedia  |  Stanford  |  Weisstein  |  NNDB


 Euclid of Alexandria Euclid of Alexandria   (c. 325-265 BC)

Father of axiomatic geometry and author of the most enduring textbook in the history of mathematics:  The Elements.  His presentation of the mathematics of his times would become the centerpiece of mathematical teaching for more than 2000 years.

MacTutor   |   Wikipedia   |   Weisstein   |   Facebook Fans


 Ctesibius Water-Clock Ctesibius of Alexandria   (c. 310-222 BC)

Starting out as a barber, he became an engineer and founded the school of mathematics at the Library of Alexandria  (he may have served as its first head librarian).  He invented a suction pump, a compressed-air catapult, a pipe organ and the  regulated  water-clock  (fed by an overflowing vessel).

Antikythera Mechanism (c. 70 BC)   |   Wikipedia


 Archimedes of Syracuse Archimedes of Syracuse   (c. 287-212 BC)

A native and resident of Syracuse, Archimedes studied in Alexandria and maintained relations with Alexandrian scholars.  Although he became famous for designing war machines, this early physicist was, above all, an  outstanding  mathematician.

Lever  |  Spiral  |  Parabola  |  Sand Reckoner  |  MacTutor  |  Wikipedia  |  Weisstein  |  Historical Tidbits  |  FB Fans


 Eratosthenes Eratosthenes of Cyrene   (276-194 BC)

Eratosthenes  headed the Library of Alexandria after  Apollonius of Rhodes.  In  number theory, he is remembered for the Sieve of Eratosthenes.  He also came up with the first accurate measurement of the circumference of the Earth.

Armillary sphere   |   MacTutor   |   Weisstein   |   NNDB   |   Facebook   |   Carl Sagan (video)


 Circle of Apollonius Apollonius of Perga   (262-190 BC)

Apollonius  named and studied the conic sections.  He found that a circle consists of all points  M  whose distances to two  foci  (I,J)  are in a fixed ratio  (e.g., 2/3).  He said that planets revolve around the Sun and that the Earth itself might as well be thought of as  moving,  like planets do.

NO PORTRAIT   |   Circles of Apollonius   |   MacTutor   |   Wikipedia   |   Weisstein   |   Facebook Fans


 Hipparchus Hipparchus of Nicaea  (c. 190-126 BC)

Hipparch  founded trigonometry  (table of chords, spherical coordinates)  and discovered the precession of the equinoxes (130 BC).  The nova of 134 BC inspired him to compile a catalog of 1080 stars.  His lunar and solar models could predict eclipses.

Magnitude of Stars   |   Astrolabe   |   MacTutor   |   Wikipedia   |   Weisstein   |   NNDB


 Pliny the Elder Pliny the Elder, encyclopedist  (AD 23-79)

Gaius Plinius Secundus  was a public official who wrote a lot.  The 37 books of  Historia Naturalis (AD 77)  present, in an anthropocentric way, everything the Romans knew about the natural world.  In this,  Pliny  cites nearly 4000 authors.

Historia Naturalis (Bill Thayer)  =  The Natural History (Bostock & Riley)   |   Wikipedia   |   Weisstein   |   NNDB


 Pedanius Dioscorides Dioscorides, pharmacologist  (c. AD 40-90)

Pedanius Dioscorides  was the Greek author of the first major  pharmacopeia  (which never went out of print and remained authoritative for over 1500 years).  The 5 volumes of  De Materia Medica (AD 70)  present about 600 plants.

De Materia Medica   |   Greek Medicine   |   Wikipedia   |   Weisstein


 Ptolemy Ptolemy of Alexandria  (c. AD 87-165)

Claudius Ptolemaeus  was a Roman  citizen  who wrote in Greek.  His first name is unknown  (it's been guessed to be  Tiberius).  The geocentric system presented in his  Almagest (c. AD 150)  dominated astronomy for many centuries.

Almagest   |   MacTutor   |   Wikipedia   |   Weisstein   |   NNDB


 Galen Galen of Pergamos,  physician   (AD 129-217)

A Roman  citizen  of Greek ethnicity, he started out as physician to the gladiators.  He was so prolific (10 million words) that his surviving works (30%) represent nearly half of the extant literature of ancient Greece.  His thinking dominated medicine for more than a thousand years.

Britannica   |   Wikipedia   |   NNDB   |   IEP


 Diophantus Diophantus of Alexandria  (c. AD 200-284)

Diophantine problem  is to find an integer satisfying a polynomial equation with integer coefficients,  or several such equations simultaneously.  Diophantus himself never considered irrational numbers or nonpositive ones.  His age at death was reportedly  x = x/6 + x/12 + x/7 + 5 + x/2 + 4.

Problems from Arithmetica  by Tinka Davis (MS Thesis, 2010)   |   Wikipedia   |   MacTutor   |   NNDB


 Maria Prophetissa Mary the Jewess,  alchemist  (3rd century AD)

Earliest female experimentalist on record  (signing  Miriam the prophetess, sister of Moses)  she invented the  tribikos  still  and the  balneum Mariae  (named after her).  F. Hoefer also credits her for  muriatic acid  (HCl).  In Alexandria, she reluctantly initiated  Zosimos of Panopolis  (a gentile).

Wikipedia  |  Maria Prophetissa  |  Opus Mulierum  |  Axiom of Maria  |  Chrysopoeia (1964) by Leonora Carrington


 Pappus's Hexagon Theorem Pappus of Alexandria  (c. AD 290-350)

The  theorem of Pappus  (generalized by Pascal in 1639) is a fundamental theorem of  projective geometry.  The name is also used for the two centroid theorems published by Paul Guldin (1577-1643) in  Centrobaryca  (1635)  pertaining to the surface area and the volume of a solid of revolution.

Wikipedia   |   MacTutor   |   Freebase   |   Encyclopedia Britannica


 Hypatia of Alexandria Hypatia,  neoplatonist martyr  (c. AD 360-415)

Daughter of the mathematician  Theon (c. 335-405)  last librarian  of Alexandria, who raised her like a boy.  Her scientific teaching was perceived as  pagan.  Hypatia was ambushed and skinned alive by a mob of Christian fanatics.  Her murder marks the beginning of the  Dark Ages.

Wikipedia   |   MacTutor   |   Freebase   |   NNDB


 Geber Geber,  experimental chemist  (c. AD 721-815)

Abu Musa Jabir ibn Hayyan al Azdi  was born in Tus (Persia) but the Arabs claim him as one of their own.  Geber (or Jabir) made remarkable scientific advances in practical chemistry but also produced eponymous  gibberish  on occult alchemy.

khemeia   |   retort   |   Wikipedia   |   Jabir   |   Chemical Heritage Foundation   |   al Shindagah


 Al Khwarizmi al-Khwarizmi,  Algorismus  (c. AD 783, fl.847)

Al-jabr  (transposition from one side of an equation to the other)  is the technique which gave  algebra  its name.  The term is from the title of the masterpiece published around 810 by  Abu Abdallah Muhammed bin Musa al Khwarizmi.

Decimal numeration   |   Quadratic formula   |   Wikipedia   |   MacTutor   |   Weisstein


 Leonardo Fibonacci Leonardo Pisano Bigollo Fibonacci  (1170-1250)

As a teenager in Algeria, Fibonacci learned the Hindu-Arabic decimal system that he would advocate in Europe.  In  Liber Abaci  (1202)  he discussed many computational puzzles, including  one  about the Fibonacci sequence...

The Fibonacci Series   |   MacTutor   |   Wikipedia   |   Weisstein   |   Facebook Fans


 William of Ockham William of Ockham,  friar   (c.1288-1348)

Arguably, the foremost Medieval logician.  His enduring contribution to  natural philosophy  is the "principle of parsimony" known as  Occam's Razor  (the simplest explanation compatible with observations is preferred).

MacTutor   |   Wikipedia   |   Weisstein


 Nicole Oresme bore these arms as
 Bishop of Lisieux, from 1377 to his death.

 Nicole Oresme Nicole Oresme,  bishop   (1323-1382)

Nicolas Oresme  is credited with the introduction of fractional exponents and the graphing of functions.  He also established the divergence of the harmonic series.  Oresme anticipated analytic geometry, the law of free fall and chemical structures...

MacTutor   |   Wikipedia   |   Weisstein   |   Université de Caen


 Nicolaus Copernicus 
 (Housemark)

 Nicolaus Copernicus Nicolaus Copernicus   (1473-1543)

Mikolaj Kopernik  attended Krakow, Bologna, Padua and Ferrara.  Thanks to his uncle, he became a canon at Frauenberg (1497) where he would have an observatory.  Around 1514, he gave an heliocentric explanation to planetary retrograde motion.

De revolutionibus (1543)  |  Copernican revolution  |  MacTutor  |  Wikipedia  |  Weisstein  |  Copernicium (2010)


 Coat-of-arms of Paracelsus 
 (1493-1541)

 Paracelsus (1493-1541) 
 Portrait by Quentin Matsys (1466-1529)  Paracelsus, physician   (1493-1541)

Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim  chose the pseudonym  Paracelsus  in honor of the encyclopedist Celsus.  He is the first systematic botanist.  He named zinc (1526)  and revolutonized medicine (without freeing it from superstition) by using mineral chemicals.

The dose makes the poison  |  Alphabet of the Magi  |  Wikipedia  |  Weisstein


 Coat-of-arms of Girolamo Cardano 
 (1501-1576)

 Girolamo Cardano  Girolamo Cardano  (1501-1576)

Girolamo Cardano  (Cardan to the French)

Ars Magna  |  MacTutor  |  Wikipedia  |  Weisstein   |   NNDB


 Ambrois Pare  Ambroise Paré,  surgeon  (1510-1590)

Ambroise Paré  was a royal military surgeon.  On one occasion on the battlefield, he had to use a makeshift ointment.  He observed that the soldiers so treated recovered much better than those who underwent the formerly "recommended" treatment  (i.e., burning wounds with oil).

Wikipedia  |  Britannica   |   NNDB


 Andries Wijtinck van Wesele (1514-1564)
 ennobled by Charles V

 Andreas Vesalius  Andries Wijtinck van Wesele  (1514-1564)

Breaking with the precepts of GalenAndreas Vesalius Bruxellensis  revolutionized medicine in 1543 with the first modern book on human anatomy,  based on the detailed observations he made during the dissections that he carried out in front of medical students at the University of Padua.

De humani corporis fabrica (1543)   |   Wikipedia  |  NNDB


 Francois Viette, Francois Viete,
 Franciscus Vieta (1540-1603)

 Franciscus Vieta François Viète  (1540-1603)

His name is also spelled  Viette  (latin:  Franciscus Vieta).  Viète  pioneered modern algebraic notations, where known constants and unknown quantities are represented by letters.  The trigonometric  law of tangents  (c. 1580)  is due to him.
 Signature of 
 Franciscus Vieta

Catholic Encyclopedia   |   MacTutor   |   Wikipedia   |   Weisstein


 Tycho Brahe

 Tycho Brahe Tycho Brahe, astronomer   (1546-1601)

Tyge Ottesen Brahe   was from the high Danish nobility.  His Uraniborg observatory, on Hven island, cost 1% of the state budget but allowed precise (naked-eye) observations of planetary positions which made possible the work of Kepler.

MacTutor  |  Wikipedia  |  Weisstein  |  Galileo Project


 Galileo 
 Galilei

 Galileo Galilei, 1636
 portrait painted by 
 Justus Sustermans (1597-1681)Galileo Galilei   (1564-1642)

Using his own pulse as a timer, Galileo discovered the pendulum isochronism in 1581.  He found that all bodies fall with the same acceleration and declared mechanical laws valid for all observers in uniform motion.  He made the first telescopic observations.

The Gaoileo Project (Rice University)   |   MacTutor   |   Wikipedia   |   Weisstein


 Galileo 
 Galilei

 Johannes Kepler, 1610 Johannes Kepler   (1571-1630)

Kepler's  precise calculations helped establish  heliocentric  astronomy.  In 1609 and 1619, he published his famous  3  laws of planetary motion.  He studied optics, polyhedra, logarithms, etc.  Arguably, he paved the road to  Calculus.

MacTutor   |   Wikipedia   |   Weisstein   |   Facebook Fans


 William 
 Harvey

 William Harvey William Harvey,  physician   (1578-1657)

William Harvey started modern experimental medicine with his discovery of the circulation of the blood.  He had been a student at Padua, where the Flemish anatomist Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564) had started encouraging students to  observe  rather than conform to the precepts of Galen.

Encyclopedia of Science by David Darling   |   Wikipedia   |   NNDB   |   BBC


 Rene
 Descartes

 Rene Descartes, 1649
 portrait painted by Dutch master
 Frans Hals (c. 1580-1666) René Descartes   (1596-1650)

Descartes attended the famous Jesuit college of  La Flèche from 1607 to 1615.  He met his scientific mentor Isaac Beeckman (1588-1637) in 1618.  He introduced  cartesian geometry  in one of the three appendices to  Discours sur la méthode  (1637).

MacTutor   |   Wikipedia   |   Weisstein   |   Facebook Fans


 Pierre de Fermat

 Pierre de Fermat Pierre de Fermat   (1601-1665)

Fermat attended Toulouse and Bordeaux,  got a law degree from Orléans and purchased an office at the parlement of Toulouse in 1631.  He pursued investigations in mathematics and physics in his spare time  (his judicial work suffered).

Fermat's Little Theorem  |  Fermat's Last Theorem  |  MacTutor  |  Wikipedia  |  Weisstein  |  Facebook Fans


 Blaise Pascal

 Blaise Pascal Blaise Pascal,  philosopher  (1623-1662)

At age 19, he built a celebrated mechanical calculator.  In 1647, Pascal thought of using a Torricelli barometer as an  altimeter,  which established experimentally (1648) the origin of atmospheric pressure.  The SI unit of  pressure  (Pa)  is named after him.

Pascal's hexagram theorem (1639)  |  MacTutor  |  Wikipedia  |  Weisstein  |  Facebook Fans

 Ka-mon

 Takakazu Seki Kowa (1642-1708) Takakazu Seki  [Kowa]   (1642-1708)

The Japanese Newton.  Second son of a  Samurai warrior he was adopted by a noble technocrat  (Gorozaemon SEKI )  whose name he took.  Some of  Seki's  discoveries predate their Western counterparts:  Determinants (1683)  Bernoulli numbers, etc.  He taught Katahiro TAKEBE (1664-1739).

Origins   |   Wasan   |   Ellipse circumference (approximation)   |   MacTutor   |   Wikipedia   |   Britannica   |   Springer


 Isaac 
 Newton

 Sir Isaac Newton, 1689
 portrait painted by
 Godfrey Kneller (1646-1723) Sir Isaac Newton   (1643-1727)

Lucasian professor of mathematics at Cambridge in 1669.  FRS in 1672.  Publishes  Principia  in 1687.  Retires from research in 1693.  Warden (1696) then Master (1699) of the Royal Mint.  President of the Royal Society from 1703.  Knighted in 1705.
 Signature of 
 Isaac Newton

MacTutor   |   Wikipedia   |   Weisstein   |   Facebook Fans


 Gottfried 
 Leibniz

 Gottfried von Leibniz Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz   (1646-1716)

A major philosopher and a polymath,  Leibniz  invented differential calculus independently of Newton.  He introduced a consistent notation for integrals and infinitesimals (1675).  Unlike  d'Alembert  or  Cauchy,  Leibniz didn't think of derivatives as limits  (cf. Robinson).
 Signature of 
 G. W. Leigniz

Against Atomism   |   MacTutor   |   Wikipedia   |   Weisstein   |   Facebook Fans


 Benjamin 
 Franklin

 Benjamin Franklin Benjamin Franklin   (1706-1790)

 Signature of 
 Benjamin Franklin At the same time as Watson  (1746)  Franklin formulated the law of conservation of charge by positing opposite signs for  resinous (-)  and  vitreous (+)  electricity.

One of Franklin's many famous quotes   |   Electric Kite (1752)   |   MacTutor   |   Wikipedia   |   Weisstein


 Gabrielle-Emilie de Breteuil, 
 marquise du Châtelet

 Emilie du Chatelet Emilie du Châtelet   (1706-1749)

At 19, Gabrielle-Emilie de Breteuil  married the Marquis  Florent-Claude du Chastellet.  She was the lover of Voltaire whom she and her husband protected in their  châteauMaupertuis had initiated her to Science at 27 and she would advocate the concept of  energy  introduced by  Leibniz.

Breteuil ring in the French West Indies   |   Britannica   |   MacTutor   |   Wikipedia   |   Weisstein


 Leonhard 
 Euler

 Leonhard Euler 
 portrait painted by 
 Johann Georg Brucker Leonhard Euler   (1707-1783)

He solved the  Basel Problem  in 1735.  The most prolific mathematician of all times, Euler became totally blind in 1771.  He still produced nearly half of his 866 works after 1766 (in St. Petersburg) with the help of several assistants,  including Nicolaus Fuss (1755-1826) who joined in 1773.
 Signature of 
 Leonhard Euler

The Euler Archive  |  Tercentenary  |  MacTutor  |  Wikipedia  |  Weisstein  |  FB


 Laura Bassi 
 1711-1778

 Laura Bassi Laura Bassi, physicist   (1711-1778)

Gabriele Manfredi  initiated her to higher mathematics and newtonian physics.  In 1732 (at age 21)  Laura Bassi  became the second woman to earn a doctorate and the first to hold a teaching post at a European university  (Bologna).  She was finally named  professor of physics  there, in 1776.

Stanford (2012-01-04)   |   Tribute   |   MacTutor   |   Wikipedia   |   Mike Rendell


 Jean le Rond d'Alembert 
 1717-1783

 Jean d'Alembert 
 portrait painted by 
 Maurice Quentin de La Tour Jean-le-Rond d'Alembert   (1717-1783)

Born illegitimately to  Louis Camus des Touches "Canon"  (1668-1726)  and  Claudine de Tencin,  he was editor of the  Encyclopedia.  He founded analytical mechanics on a principle of virtual work and solved the wave equation.  The  d'Alembertian  is a 4D operator.

Remarkable Mathematicians   |   MacTutor   |   Wikipedia   |   Weisstein   |   Rouse Ball   |   FB


 Maria-Gaetana Agnesi 
 1718-1799

 Maria-Gaetana Agnesi Maria-Gaëtana Agnesi   (1718-1799)

Child prodigy and author of the first mathematical book by a woman  (1748).  In 1750, she was appointed to the chair of mathematics at Bologna by Caution sign Pope Benedict XIV  but she never went there  (the first woman to  hold  a chair in Europe was thus  Laura Bassi, in 1776).

Witch of Agnesi (curve)   |   MacTutor   |   Wikipedia   |   1911   |   NNDB


 Henry Cavendish 
 1731-1810

 Lord Henry Cavendish Henry Cavendish, FRS   (1731-1810)

Absent-minded and pathologically shy, he could not  talk  to women at all.  In 1766,  Cavendish  discovered what Lavoisier  called  hydrogen.  In 1798, he measured Newton's  Universal constant of gravity  (G) to an accuracy of 1%.

Torsion balance of John Michell (1724-1793)   |   Wikipedia   |   Weisstein   |   Video (Roger Bowley)   |   NNDB


 Joseph Louis Lagrange 
 1736-1813

 Joseph Louis Lagrange Joseph Louis Lagrange   (1736-1813)

In 1744, Lagrange invented the calculus of variations (it's Euler who coined the name, in 1766).  Lagrange soon applied it to analytical mechanics.  He also invented Lagrange multipliers.  In 1794,  Polytechnique was founded.  Lagrange became its first  professor of analysis  (till 1799).

Remarkable Mathematicians (pdf)   |   MacTutor   |   Wikipedia   |   Weisstein   |   Facebook Fans   |   NNDB


 Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier 
 1743-1794

 Antoine Lavoisier Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier (1743-1794)

Antoine Lavoisier  founded quantitative chemistry by establishing that mass is conserved in any chemical transformation.  He was infamously executed during the French Revolution because of his rôle as a tax collector.
 Signature of 
 Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier

Chemical Heritage Foundation  |  Wikipedia  |  Weisstein  |  Video Bio  |  NNDB


 Pierre-Simon Laplace 
 1749-1827

 Pierre Simon Laplace Pierre Simon Laplace   (1749-1827)

Introduced to mathematics in Caen by  Christophe Gadbled  and  Pierre Le Canu, he was mentored by d'Alembert  (in Paris)  and became one of the most innovative and influential scientists ever  (Laplacian, Laplace transform, etc.)

Taupe Laplace (Caen)  |  Encyclopedia.com  |  MacTutor  |  Wikipedia  |  Weisstein  |  Facebook Fans  |  NNDB


 Adrien-Marie Legendre

 Adrien-Marie Legendre, 1752-1833 
 by Julien-Leopold Boilly (1820) Adrien-Marie Legendre   (1752-1833)

Legendre was one of the greatest contributors to the mathematics of his times.  Many concepts are named after him.  At left is what seems to be his only extant portrait  (it was found among 73 caricatures of members of the French academy of Sciences).
 Signature of 
 Adrien-Marie Legendre

Legendre symbols  &  polynomials  |  MacTutor  |  Wikipedia  |  Weisstein  |  1911


 Joseph Fourier, 1768-1830

 Jean-Baptiste Fourier Jean-Baptiste Joseph Fourier  (1768-1830)

In January 1795,  Joseph Fourier  was the star trainee in the new  Ecole normale de l'an III  (the forerunner of ENS) as he was simultaneously  teaching  at  Polytechnique.  He is the founder of  Harmonic Analysis  (cf. Fourier transform).

PhD / ENS  |  MacTutor  |  Wikipedia  |  Weisstein  |  Facebook Fans  |  NNDB


 Andre-Marie Ampere Andre-Marie Ampere   (1775-1836)

Appointed professor of mathematics at  Polytechnique in 1809.  In september 1820, he discovered that like currents attract each other whereas opposite currents repel.  The effect is now used to define the SI unit of current, which is named after him.
 Signature of 
 Andre Ampere

Ampere's law (1825 & 1861)  |  MacTutor  |  Wikipedia  |  Weisstein  |  NNDB


 Sophie Germain Sophie Germain   (1776-1831)

At 13, the story of the death of Archimedes inspired her to become a mathematician.  She was 18 when  Polytechnique  opened  (it was male-only until 1971)  and made available  Lagrange's lecture notes.  This gave her a start to correspond with him and others  (signing  Monsieur LeBlanc  at first).  Signature of 
 Sophie Germain

Chladni patterns  |  Sophie Germain primes  |  MacTutor  |  Wikipedia  |  Weisstein


 Carl F. 
 Gauss

 Carl Friedrich Gauss, 1840 
 portrait by the Danish painter
 Christian Albrecht Jensen (1792-1870) 
 for the Pulkovo observatoryCarl Friedrich Gauss   (1777-1855)

At the age of 7, the  Prince of Mathematics  found instantly the sum (5050) of all integers from 1 to 100  (as the sum of 50 pairs, each adding up to 101).  At age 19, his breakthrough about constructible polygons helped him choose a mathematical career.
 Signature of 
 C. F. Gauss

Quadratic reciprocity  |  MacTutor  |  Wikipedia  |  Weisstein  |  Facebook  |  NNDB


 Simeon Denis Poisson Siméon Poisson   (1781-1840; X1798)

Among his many mathematical contributions is a very abstract construct in  analytical mechanics  (Poisson Brackets, 1809)  which helped Dirac formulate a precise correspondence between classical and quantum mechanics  (Sunday, Sept. 20, 1925).  Ecole Polytechnique (X)

MacTutor  |  Wikipedia   |   Weisstein   |   Facebook Fans   |   NNDB


 Francois Jean Dominique Arago François Arago   (1786-1853; X1803)

He taught analysis and geometry at Polytechnique from 1810 to 1830, at the peak of his creativity  (electromagnet, 1820).  A popular left-wing deputy elected in 1830, Arago became Minister of Marine and War in 1948 and was instrumental in abolishing slavery in the French Colonies (1848).  Ecole Polytechnique (X)  Signature of 
 Francois Arago

X  |  MacTutor  |  Wikipedia  |  Weisstein  |  FB  |  NNDB


 Augustin Fresnel Augustin Fresnel   (1788-1827; X1804)

Trained in Caen (1801-1804) then at  Polytechnique.  In 1821, Augustin Fresnel  established  (with Arago)  that light is a transverse wave whose two orthogonal polarizations do  not  interfere with each other.  He promoted the use of Fresnel lenses in lighthouses.  Ecole Polytechnique (X)

Born in Broglie, raised in Mathieu  |  MacTutor  |  Wikipedia   |   Weisstein   |   NNDB


 Augustin 
 Cauchy

 Louis Augustin Cauchy Augustin Cauchy   (1789-1857; X1805)

A devout royalist,  Cauchy  wrote 789 papers in all areas of the mathematics and theoretical physics of his time.  In 1821, his  Cours d'analyse  at Polytechnique put analysis on a rigorous footing.  He originated the calculus of residues (1826) and complex analysis (1829).  Ecole Polytechnique (X)

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 Michael Faraday Michael Faraday, experimentalist   (1791-1867)

In 1831,  Faraday  discovered the  Law of Electromagnetic Induction, which made the electric era possible.  He is widely regarded as one of the greatest experimentalists who ever lived.  Yet, he had little or no grasp of higher mathematics.
 Signature of 
 Michael Faraday

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 Charles Babbage Charles Babbage   (1791-1871)

He was Lucasian Professor (1828-1839) at Cambridge but never taught.  He designed two computing machines:  The  Difference Engine  (funded in 1822)  was never completed.  The more advanced  Analytical Engine  would have been the first true computer  (Ada Lovelace wrote programs for it).
 Signature of 
 Charles Babbage

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 Niels  
 Abel

 Niels Henrik Abel Niels Henrik Abel   (1802-1829)

Niels Abel  produced many brilliant results during a short life spent in poverty:  Non-solvability of quintic equations by radicals, double periodicity of the elliptic functions, etc.  An offer for his first professorship  (at Berlin)  arrived  two days  after he had succombed to tuberculosis.  Signature of 
 Niels H. Abel

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 Carl Jacobi Carl Gustav Jacob Jacobi   (1804-1851)

An inspiring teacher, he was an outstanding and prolific creator of mathematics who has been likened to Euler.  He introduced    and  Jacobians  in 1841.  Jacobi  admired  Poisson brackets  and proved that they satisfy what's now called Jacobi's identity.

Ph.D. 1825   |   MacTutor   |   Wikipedia   |   Weisstein   |   Facebook Fans   |   NNDB


 Johann Dirichlet Peter Gustav Lejeune Dirichlet   (1805-1859)

His full name was  Johann Peter Gustav Lejeune-Dirichlet.  He signed  Gustav Lejeune Dirichlet, (no hyphen)  published as  P.G.L. Dirichlet  and was quoted as  Lejeune-Dirichlet.  He contributed to number theory, mechanics and analysis.

h.c. 1827  |  Theorems  |  D-branes  |  DE  |  Life and Work (pdf)  |  MacTutor  |  Wikipedia  |  Weisstein  |  FB


 William Rowan Hamilton Sir William Rowan Hamilton   (1805-1865)

Hamilton taught himself mathematics at the age of 17.  In 1833, he devised a version of  rational mechanics (based on co-called  conjugate momenta)  which helps clarify modern formulations of quantum mechanics.  He invented quaternions in 1843.
 Signature of 
 William R. Hamilton

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 Charles 
 Darwin

 Charles Darwin at age 31 
 Portrait by George Richmond (1840) Charles Robert Darwin   (1809-1882)

Against strong religious animosity  (which lasts to this day in the US)  Darwin established that the mechanism of  natural selection  was powerful enough to explain the evolution of the humblest ancient lifeforms into the most advanced modern ones, featuring extremely sophisticated organs.

The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection (1859)   |   Wikipedia   |   Facebook   |   NNDB


 Joseph Liouville Joseph Liouville   (1809-1882; X1825)

Many of Liouville's 400+ papers include key contributions, like his conservation of Hamiltonian phase-measure.  In 1836, he founded the  Journal de mathématiques pures et appliquées  and promoted the work of others, including the late  Evariste Galois.  Ecole Polytechnique (X)

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 Hermann Grassmann Hermann Grassmann   (1809-1877)

Around 1832, he pioneered the modern approach to vectors and went on to invent  exterior algebra  (the correct basis for Cartan's differential forms and/or  Bourbaki's "Stokes' theorem").  Grassmann had little mathematical influence during his own lifetime  (he became successful as a linguist).

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 Evariste Galois Evariste Galois  (1811-1832)

Galois theory investigates the symmetries  of polynomials over fields.  Galois "didn't have the time" to extend it to transcendental functions  (nobody else has done so).  He died in a stupid duel at the age of 20 and his fundamental work might have been lost if Liouville hadn't revived it in 1843.  Signature of 
 Evariste Galois

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 Karl Weierstrass Karl Weierstrass, mathematician  (1815-1897)

The  father of analysis  spent 15 years teaching secondary school before one paper earned him an honorary doctorate and a professorship.  He gave the rigorous metric definition of limits and invented the concept of analytic continuation.

Hon. Dr. 1854  |  MacTutor  |  Wikipedia  |  Weisstein  |  Facebook Fans


 Byron arms

 Lady Lovelace Ada Byron, Lady Lovelace  (1815-1852)

Daughter and heiress of Lord Byron  (the poet)  whom she never knew.  Ada was introduced by  Mary Somerville  to  Charles Babbage  on June 5, 1833.  She then developped an intense interest in the  mathematics of computation  and is now regarded as the first  computer programmer.
 Signature of Ada Lovelace

Women in Computer Science   |   Yale CS  |  MacTutor  |  Wikipedia  |  NNDB


 Stokes coat-of-arms

 George Gabriel Stokes George Gabriel Stokes  (1819-1903)

A former Senior Wrangler, Sir George Stokes was Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge for 53 years.  He was made a baronet in 1889.  He pioneered advances in  fluid dynamics, wave propagation, diffraction, fluorescence, differential forms and divergent series.  [Stokes line]
 Signature of George Stokes

B.A. 1841  |  Stokes' theorem  |  Navier-Stokes  |  MacTutor  |  WP  |  Weisstein  |  NNDB


 Pafnuty Chebyshev Pafnuty Lvovich Chebyshev   (1821-1894)

Home-schooled Russian aristocrat.  His mathematics tutor was the textbook author Platon Nikolaevich Pogorelski (1800-1852).  Chebyshev contributed to number theory, algebra, analysis, mechanics, etc.  In 1850, he derived Bertrand's postulate from the totient function's asymptotics.

Ph.D. 1849  |  MacTutor  |  Wikipedia  |  Weisstein  |  Orthogonal polynomials.  |  Economization


 Arthur Cayley 
(by Barraud and Jerrard) Arthur Cayley, mathematician   (1821-1895)

He wrote 996 papers on many mathematical subjects (200 of these while praticing law, for 14 years).  In 1858, Cayley established  (without a formal proof)  the  Cayley-Hamilton theorem:  A matrix is a zero of its characteristic polynomial.

Dr Sc. 1875  |  MacTutor  |  Wikipedia  |  Weisstein  |  Group Th.  |  Cayley-Dickson  |  Length of a flat ellipse


 Charles Hermite Charles Hermite   (1822-1901; X1842)

After one year at  Polytechnique,  the military management dismissed him because of a congenitally deformed right leg.  He returned as a teacher, five years later, and made key contributions to number theory, orthogonal polynomials and elliptic functions.  He proved  e  transcendental in 1873.  Ecole Polytechnique (X)  Signature of 
 Charles Hermite

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 Louis Pasteur Louis Pasteur,  microbiologist   (1822-1895)

Louis Pasteur  was a trained chemist who separated chiral isomers by sorting the different crystals they produce.   Signature of 
 Louis Pasteur He proved the  germ  theory of infectious diseases and invented  pasteurization.
 Signature of 
 Louis Pasteur

Pasteur Institute   |   Encyclopedia Britannica   |   Wikipedia   |   BBC   |   NNDB


 Leopold Kronecker Leopold Kronecker, algebraist   (1823-1891)

Famous for his credo "God made the natural numbers; all else is the work of man", Kronecker championed  constructivism.  He strongly opposed his former student Georg Cantor and the emerging nonconstructive Set Theory.

Ph.D. 1845  |  Legendre symbols   |   MacTutor   |   Wikipedia   |   Weisstein


 Baron Kelvin 
 of Largs

 Lord Kelvin Lord Kelvin   (1824-1907)

Born  William ThomsonLord Kelvin  was knighted in 1866 and raised to the peerage in 1892  (Baron Kelvin of Largs).  The SI unit of temperature is named after this mathematician noted for his engineering work (e.g., transatlantic telegraph).
 Signature of 
 Lord Kelvin, Professor of Natural Philosophy

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 Bernhard Riemann, 1863 Bernhard Riemann, mathematician   (1826-1866)

In 1851, his thesis introduced Riemann surfaces.  Riemann's habilitation lecture on the foundations of geometry (1854) stunned even Gauss.  Probing the distribution of primes with his  zeta function, he stated the Riemann Hypothesis in 1859.
 Signature of 
 Bernhard Riemann

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 James 
 Clerk Maxwell

 James Clerk Maxwell James Clerk Maxwell   (1831-1879)

In 1864, he devised Maxwell's equations which unify electricity and magnetism, by describing  electromagnetic  fields traveling at the speed of light.  In 1866, Maxwell proposed (independently of Boltzmann) the  Maxwell-Boltzmann  kinetic theory of gases.
 Signature of 
 James Clerk Maxwell

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 Richard Dedekind 
 Courtesy of the Library of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich Richard Dedekind, mathematician   (1831-1916)

Julius Wilhelm Richard Dedekind  was the last doctoral student of Gauss (1852) but he also learned much from Dirichlet after his doctorate.  On 24 November 1858, he defined every  real number  as a Dedekind cut  of rationals.  In 1871, he introduced algebraic ideals.

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 Mendeleev arms

 Dmitri Mendeleev Dmitri Mendeleev, chemist   (1834-1907)

In 1869, he presented a classification of chemical elements (based mostly on atomic masses) which showed periodic patterns in their chemical properties.  He predicted the properties of 3 unknown elements which were discovered shortly thereafter:  Ga (1871), Sc (1879) and Ge (1886).  Shape of the periodic table of elements

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 Sophus Lie Sophus Lie, mathematician   (1842-1899)

With  Felix KleinSophus Lie  originated the investigation of the continuous groups of symmetry now named after him.  The study of  Lie groups  and the related  Lie algebras  would become a major branch of 20-th century mathematics, with applications to  quantum mechanics.

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 Ludwig Boltzmann Ludwig Boltzmann, physicist   (1844-1906)

A proponent of  atomic theory  and the father of  statistical physics.  We call  Boltzmann's constant  the coefficient of proportionality between  entropy  (in J/K)  and the natural logarithm of the number  W  of allowed physical states.
 Signature of 
 Ludwig Boltzmann

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 Georg Cantor Georg Cantor, mathematician   (1845-1918)

Cantor's diagonal argument shows that the points of a line are not countable.  More generally, Cantor's Theorem  states that no function from a set to its  powerset  can possibly be  surjective,  which establishes an infinite sequence of increasing  infinities.

Dangerous Knowledge 1 | 2 | 3   |   MacTutor   |   Wikipedia   |   Weisstein   |   Facebook Fans


 Thomas Alva Edison Thomas Edison,  inventor   (1847-1931)

The most successfull inventor ever.  His 1093 US patents cover the phonograph, light-bulb, motion picture camera...  In 1876, he created the first industrial research laboratory at Menlo Park, NJ.  He favored DC current, which lost out to Tesla's AC generation and distribution of electric power.

Edison Birthplace Museum   |   Edison's homepage  by  Gerald Beals   |   Wikipedia   |   NNDB


 Christian Felix Klein C. Felix Klein,  mathematician   (1849-1925)

Born on 1849-4-25  (432, 22, 52 )  to a Prussian government official,  he married the granddaughter of Hegel in 1875.  The noncyclic group of order 4 bears his name.  As first president of the ICMI (1908) he was instrumental in bringing Calculus (back) to secondary schools worldwide.

Ph.D. 1868  |  Erlangen program (1872)  |  Klein bottle  |  Klein group  |  MacTutor  |  Wikipedia


 Korvin arms

 Sofia Vasilyevna Kovalevskaya Sofia Kovalevskaya   (1850-1891)

Sofia Vasilyevna Kovalevskaya  was born  Sonya Korvin-KrukovskayaWeierstrass tutored her privately (1870-1874) and helped her Caution sign become the first female professor at a European university  (Stockholm, 1889)  since the days of Laura Bassi (1776) or Maria-Gaëtana Agnesi.
 Signature of 
 Sofia Kovalevskaya

Ph.D. 1874  |  Cauchy-Kovalevskaya theorem (1874)  |  MacTutor  |  WP  |  Weisstein


 Ricci-Curbastro

 Gregorio Ricci-Curbastro Gregorio Ricci-Curbastro   (1853-1925)

In 1884, he started the investigations of  quadratic differential forms  which led him to invent  tensor calculus  (1884-1894).  The text he published about that with  Tullio Levi-Civita in 1900 would enable Einstein to formulate General Relativity in 1915.
 Signature of 
 Gregorio Ricci-Curbastro

Ph.D. 1873   |   MacTutor   |   Wikipedia   |   Weisstein


 Hendrik Antoon Lorentz Hendrik A. Lorentz, physicist   (1853-1928)

Among the  many  contributions of  H.A. Lorentz  is the coordinate transformation which is the cornerstone of  Special Relativity.  In 1892, Lorentz proposed a theory of the  electron  (discovered by Perrin in 1895 and J.J. Thomson in 1898).
 Signature of H.A. Lorentz

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 Jules Henri Poincare J. Henri Poincaré   (1854-1912; X1873)

Poincaré was the last  universal  genius and quintessential absent-minded professor  (cf.  Savant Cosinus  comic strip).  Poincaré conceived Special Relativity before Einstein did.  His mathematical legacy includes chaos theorytopology.  Ecole Polytechnique (X)  Signature of 
 Henri Poincare

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 Nikola Tesla Nikola Tesla  (1856-1943)

At least 272 patents were awarded to Tesla in 25 countries.  His work is the basis of modern  alternating current  (AC) electric power distribution.  In 1960, the SI unit of  magnetic induction  (magnetic flux density)  was named after him.
 Signature of 
 Nikola Tesla

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 Paternal coat-of-arms of Max Planck

 Max Planck 
 (1858-1947) Max Planck, physicist   (1858-1947)

Planck combined the formulas of Wien (UV) and Rayleigh (IR) into a unified expression for the blackbody spectrum.  On Dec. 14, 1900, he justified it by proposing that exchanges of energy only occur in discrete lumps, dubbed  quanta.
 Signature of Max Planck 
 at 10 years of age

Nobel 1918   |   Wikipedia   |   MacTutor   |   Facebook Fans


 David Hilbert 
 (1862-1943) David Hilbert, mathematician   (1862-1943)

One of the most powerful mathematicians ever, David Hilbert gave a famous list of 23 unsolved problems in 1900.  Quantum Theory  is formally based on the complex normed vector spaces which are named after him.
 Signature of David

Hilbert's List   |   Wikipedia   |   MacTutor   |   Facebook Fans


 Minkowski family arms

 Hermann Minkowski 
 (1864-1909) Hermann Minkowski   (1864-1909)

Pioneering convex geometry, he proved an early version of the  separation theorem  (of Hahn-Banach) and called  A+B  the set of all sums with one addend in A and the other in B.  The triangular inequality  for the  Lp norm  (1896)  and the  relativistic  scalar product (1908) are named after him.  Signature of 
 Hermann Minkowski

Brunn-Minkowski  |  Hasse-Minkowski  |  Functional  |  Wikipedia  |  MacTutor  |  FB


 Marie 
 Curie

 Marie Curie 
 (1867-1934) Marie Curie, physical chemist  (1867-1934)

Madame Curie  (née  Maria Salomea Sklodowska )  was the first woman to earn a Nobel prize and the first person to earn two.  In 1898, she isolated two new elements (polonium and radium) by tracking their  ionizing radiation,  using the electrometer of Jacques and Pierre Curie  (her husband).
 Signature of 
 Marie Curie

Nobel 1903 (Physics)   |   Nobel 1911 (Chemistry)   |   Wikipedia   |   AIP   |   Facebook Fans


 Henrietta Swan Leavitt 
 (1868-1921) Henrietta S. Leavitt,  astronomer  (1868-1921)

In 1908,  Henrietta Swan Leavitt  published the period-luminosity relationship for Cepheid variable stars,  which reveals their actual distances, even when stellar parallax is undetectable.  This paved the way for the first measurement of the  expansion of the Universe  by Edwin Hubble (1929).

1777 Variables in the Magellanic Clouds (1908)   |   Calibration by Hertzsprung (1913)   |   Wikipedia   |   NNDB


 Elie Cartan 
 (1869-1951) Elie Cartan, mathematician   (1869-1951)

In 1913, Cartan established, from a purely geometrical standpoint, the relations that lead to the quantization of spin.  He developed exterior calculus and published his full  Theory of Spinors  as a textbook in 1935.  Godfather of Bourbaki and father of bourbakist Henri Cartan (1904-2008).

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 Lord Rutherford of Nelson

 Ernest Rutherford Ernest Rutherford   (1871-1937)

British physicist born in Nelson, New Zealand.  His investigations of alpha and beta decay  (which he so named)  earned him a Nobel prize before he moved to Manchester, where he supervised the Geiger-Marsden experiment (1909) and inferred the planetary model of the atom (1911).
 Signature of 
 Ernest Rutherford

Nobel 1908   |   Nuclear Physics  |  Wikipedia  |  Weisstein  |  John Campbell (NZ)


 Constantin Caratheodory 
 (1873-1950) Constantin Carathéodory   (1873-1950)

Greek mathematician with a doctorate from Göttingen  (under Minkowski).  He made contributions to the calculus of variations  and founded  axiomatic  thermodynamics.  In measure theory, Carathéodory's criterion  characterizes measurability.  He corresponded with Einstein (1916-1930).

Ph.D. 1904  |  Axiomatic thermodynamics (1909)  |  Wikipedia  |  Weisstein  |  MacTutor


 Lise Meitner 
 (1878-1968) Lise Meitner, physical chemist   (1878-1968)

A student of Ludwig Boltzmann, she became a collaborator of  Otto Hahn  who was awarded a Nobel prize (1944) for their joint work.  With  Otto Frisch  (her nephew)  Lise Meitner gave  nuclear fission  its name  (Kernspaltung).  She correctly explained the related  mass defect  (1938).
 Signature of 
 Lise Meitner

Otto Hahn's Nobel Lecture   |   Wikipedia   |   Weisstein   |   Meitnerium (1997)


 Albert Einstein 
 (1876-1955) Albert Einstein, physicist   (1879-1955)

In 1905, Einstein published on Brownian motion (existence of atoms) the photoelectric effect (discovery of the photon) and his own Special Theory of Relativity, which he unified with gravity in 1915 by formulating the General Theory of Relativity.  In 1916, he discovered what led to  lasers.
 Signature of 
 Albert Einstein

Nobel 1921   |   MacTutor   |   Wikipedia   |   Bonn   |   Weisstein   |   AIP


 Emmy Noether 
 (1882-1935) Emmy Noether, mathematician   (1882-1935)

Emmy Noether discovered the remarkable equivalence between symmetries in physical laws and conserved physical quantities  (Noether's theorem, 1915).  Her considerable legacy also includes three Isomorphism Theorems named after her (1927).

1918 Paper   |   MacTutor   |   Wikipedia   |   EmmyNoether.com   |   Facebook Fans


 Niels 
 Bohr

 Niels Bohr 
 (1885-1962) Niels Bohr, physicist   (1885-1962)

In 1913, Bohr started the quantum revolution with a model where the  orbital angular momentum  of an electron only has discrete values.  He spearheaded the  Copenhagen Interpretation  which holds that quantum phenomena are inherently probabilistic.
 Signature of Niels Bohr

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 Hermann Weyl 
 (1885-1955) "Peter" Hermann Weyl   (1885-1955)

In 1908, Weyl obtained his doctorate in mathematics from Göttingen under Hilbert.  He was enthralled by  symmetry  and other mathematical aspects of physics.  In 1913, Weyl became a colleague of Einstein's at the ETH Zürich.  He befriended Schrödinger in 1921.
 Signature of 
 Hermann Weyl

Ph.D. 1908   |   Symmetry (1952)   |   Wikipedia   |   MacTutor   |   Facebook Fans


 Erwin Schroedinger 
 (1887-1961) Erwin Schrödinger, physicist   (1887-1961)

In 1926, Schrödinger matched observed quantum behavior with the properties of a continuous nonrelativistic wave obeying the Schrödinger Equation.  In 1935, he challenged the  Copenhagen Interpretation,  with the famous tale of Schrödinger's cat.  He lived in Dublin from 1939 to 1955.
 Signature of 
 Erwin Schroedinger

Nobel 1933 (lecture)  |  Wikipedia  |  MacTutor  |  FB  |  NNDB


 Srinivasa Ramanujan 
 (1887-1920) Srinivasa Ramanujan   (1887-1920)

Ramanujan lacked a formal mathematical education but, in 1913, a few of his early results managed to startle  G.H. Hardy (1877-1947) who invited him to Cambridge in 1914.  Ramanujan has left an unusual legacy of brilliant unconventional results.
 Signature of 
 Srinivasa Ramanujan

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 Stefan Banach

 Stefan Banach
 (1892-1945) Stefan Banach   (1892-1945)

Pioneer of functional analysis  (Théorie des opérations linéaires, 1932).  His name was given to the main backdrop (Banach spaces) and the 3 fundamental theorems:  Hahn-Banach  (linear extension & separation),   Banach-Steinhaus  (uniform boundedness),  Banach-Schauder  (open map).

home   |   Ph.D. 1920  (Banach spaces)   |   Wikipedia   |   MacTutor


 Louis 
 de Broglie

 Louis de Broglie
 (1892-1987) Louis de Broglie, physicist   (1892-1987)

In 1923, he proposed that any particle could behave like a wave of wavelength inversely proportional to its momentum  (this helps justify Schrödinger's equation).  He predicted  interferences  for an electron beam hitting a crystal.
 Signature of Louis de Broglie (1970)

Nobel 1929   |   Wikipedia   |   MacTutor


 Enrico Fermi 
 (1901-1954) Enrico Fermi,  physicist   (1901-1954)

In 1926, Fermi helped formulate the Fermi-Dirac statistics obeyed by what we now call  fermions.  He identified the  neutrino  in beta-decay.  He discovered slow neutrons and the radioactivity they  induce.  On December 2, 1942, Fermi produced the first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction.  Signature of Enrico Fermi

Fermions (1926)   |   "Neutrino" (1933)   |   Nobel 1938   |   Fermilab (1969)   |   Wikipedia


 Werner Heisenberg 
 (1901-1976) Werner Heisenberg   (1901-1976)

In 1925, Werner Heisenberg replaced Bohr's semi-classical orbits by a new quantum logic which became known  as matrix mechanics  (with the help of Born and Jordan).  The relevant noncommutativity entails  Heisenberg's uncertainty principle.

Nobel 1932   |   Wikipedia   |   MacTutor


 Alfred Tarski

 Alfred Tarski 
 (1902-1983) Alfred Tarski,  logician   (1902-1983)

In 1924, he gave a nice  definition of infinite sets.  Also due to him are the  Banach-Tarski Paradox  and the  Tarski-Grothendieck set theory.  His  axioms for  elementary  Euclidean geometry (1959) form a system (unlike anything covering arithmetic) where every true statement is provable.

Ph.D. 1924   |   Tarski's undefinability theorem   |   Stanford    |   MacTutor    |   Wikipedia   |   Weisstein   |   NNDB


 Paul Adrien Maurice 
 Dirac

 Paul Dirac 
 (1902-1984) Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac   (1902-1984)

In 1925, Paul Dirac came up with the formalism on which quantum mechanics is now based.  In 1928, he discovered a relativistic wave function for the electron, predicting the existence of  antimatter  (observed by Anderson in 1932).
 Signature of P.A.M. Dirac (Bodensee, 1962)

Genealogy   |   Nobel 1933   |   Wikipedia   |   Facebook Fans


 John von Neumann

 John von Neumann (1903-1957) 
 at Los Alamos Jancsi "John" von Neumann  (1903-1957)

He is credited with the  stored program architecture  whereby a computer uses its primary memory space to store both the data it operates on and the  codes  for the programs it executes.  Von Neumann  also pioneered  game theory  and  decision analysis.
 Signature of 
 John von Neumann

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 Tommy Flowers 
 (1905-1998) Tommy Flowers,  engineer   (1905-1998)

In 1944, Thomas Harold Flowers  built the first large-scale electronic computer  (Colossus)  at  Bletchley Park.  As the accomplishment remained classified for decades, Flowers was deprived of the glory which went instead to Mauchly and Eckert for the ENIAC (Philadelphia, 1946).

Wikipedia   |   Bletchley Park   |   The design of Colossus by Thomas H. Flowers


 Kurt Goedel 
 (1906-1978) Kurt Gödel,  logician   (1906-1978)

The  completeness  theorem in his dissertation  (1929)  states that a statement true in  every  model  of an axiomatic system is provable in it.  His more famous  incompleteness  theorem  (1931)  says that, in any model of a set of axioms covering arithmetic, some statements are true but not provable.
 Signature of 
 Kurt Goedel

NBG  |  Ph.D. 1929  |  Grave  |  Centenary  |  IAS  |  Wikipedia  |  MacTutor  |  FB  |  NNDB


 Andre Weil 
 (1906-1998) André Weil, mathematician   (1906-1998)

Older brother of the philosopher Simone Weil  (unrelated to the politician Simone Veil)  he was the leading founder of Bourbaki.  Weil created  algebraic geometry  and, arguably, charted the course of much  abstract mathematics  in the  20-th century.

D.Sc. 1928   |   Weil conjectures (1949)   |   Wikipedia   |   MacTutor   |   ams


 H.S.M. Coxeter 
 (1907-2003) Donald Coxeter,  geometer   (1907-2003)

Harold Scott MacDonald Coxeter  was a British-born Canadian mathematician teaching at Toronto.  He put forth  reflection groups.  He wrote  Introduction to Geometry (1961)  and  Regular Polytopes (1963).  A correspondant of Martin Gardner, he inspired Bucky Fuller and M.C. Escher.

Senior Wrangler 1928  |  Ph.D. 1931  |  Coxeter groups  |  The man who saved geometry  |  Wikipedia  |  MacTutor


 Alan Turing 
 (1912-1954) Alan Turing, computer scientist  (1912-1954)

Turing Machine  is a finite automaton endowed with an infinite read/write tape on which it can move back and forth, one step at a time.  Turing showed that this type of machine is actually capable of computing anything that any other machine could.

AlanTuring.net   |   Jack Copeland   |   Dangerous Knowledge 8 | 9 | 10   |   Wikipedia   |   MacTutor   |   FB


 Paul Erdos 
 (1913-1996) Paul Erdős, mathematician   (1913-1996)

Paul Erdös  wrote over 1500 papers with 511 collaborators.  He contributed many conjectures and proved some great ones.  Faced with antisemitism, he left Hungary in 1934 and spent the rest of his frugal life on the road, touring mathematical centers.

Pronounce it right   |   Erdös number   |   Wikipedia   |   MacTutor   |   Facebook Fans


 Fields Medal

 Laurent Schwartz Laurent Schwartz   (1915-2002)

"One night in 1944", he figured out that the  distributions  used in theoretical physics  (including Dirac's delta)  weren't pointwise functions but linear forms over a restricted set of smooth  test functions.  The  Fourier transform  turns out to be a  linear automorphism  among  tempered distributions.

Ph.D. 1943  |  Fields Medal 1950  |  Wikipedia  |  MacTutor  |  Convolutions & Distributions


 Richard P. Feynman 
 (1918-1988) Richard P. Feynman, physicist   (1918-1988)

In 1949, he introduced  Feynman diagrams  to describe the relativistic quantum theory of electromagnetic interactions known as  Quantum electrodynamics  (QED).  This has helped visualize all other types of fundamental interactions ever since.

Nobel 1965  |  Wikipedia  |  MacTutor  |  1972 Interviews  |  1979 QED Lectures  |  1988  |  Facebook Fans


 Abraham Robinson 
 (1918-1974) Abraham Robinson   (1918-1974)

Robinson's  non-standard analysis (1961)  gave a rigorous footing to the  infinitesimals  introduced by Leibniz (1675)  thus providing an alternative basis for  analysis  (competing with the approach made standard by  Cauchy  in 1821).  This was an early application of  Model theory.

Ph.D. 1949   |   Hyperreal numbers   |   Non-standard_analysis   |   Wikipedia   |   MacTutor


 Benoit Mandelbrot 
 (1924-2010) Benoît Mandelbrot, mathematician  (1924-2010)

Nephew of the founding bourbakist Szolem Mandelbrojt (1899-1983).  His family emigrated from Poland to France in 1936 and he was educated at Polytechnique.  He founded fractal geometry  and discovered the  Mandelbrot set.  Ecole Polytechnique (X)
 Signature of Benoit Mandelbrot

Ph.D. 1952  |  Fractals and Roughness  |  Wikipedia  |  MacTutor  |  NNDB


 Fields Medal

 Alexandre Grothendieck Alexander Grothendieck   (1928-)

Legendary visionary mathematician.  Student of  Laurent Schwartz  and  advisor of Pierre Deligne.  He invented  Motives  and the  Theory of Schemes.  He retired in 1988.  He has chosen to live as a recluse in Ariège, since 1991  (09230 Lasserre, pop. 211; 16 km North of Saint-Girons).
 Signature of 
 Alexander Grothendieck

Ph.D. 1953  |  Grothendieck Circle  |  Wikipedia  |  MacTutor  |  NNDB


 John F. Nash John Forbes Nash, Jr.   (1928-)

He conceived the notion of a  Nash equilibrium  in his 1950 dissertation about  non-cooperative games,  making  game theory  relevant to many real-life situations.  For decades, Nash battled schizophrenia, which he managed to  will off  before receiving the Nobel prize in economics, at age 66.

Ph.D. 1950  |  Nobel Prize, 1994  |  Brilliant madness  |  A Beaufiful Mind  |  Wikipedia  |  MacTutor  |  NNDB


 Steven Weinberg 
 (1933-) Steven Weinberg,  physicist   (1933-)

In 1967, he formulated the  electroweak  unification of the weak nuclear force and electromagnetism, predicting a massive neutral messenger particle  (the Z boson)  which was first observed in 1979.  Steven Weinberg gave the  Standard Model  its name.

home   |   video   |   Nobel 1979   |   Wikipedia   |   Emperor Has No Clothes Award  |  Facebook Fans  |  NNDB

 Glider in Conway's 
 Game of Life

 John Horton Conway 
 (1937-) John H. Conway   (1937-)

In 1970, Conway found the simple rules of a cellular automaton  (the  Game of Life)  capable of self-replication and universal computation.  His many other original contributions include the ultimate extension of the ordered number line:  surreal numbers (1973).

bibliography   |   New York Times   |   The 3 Conway sporadic groups   |   Wikipedia   |   MacTutor   |   NNDB


 Donald E. Knuth (1938-) Don Knuth,  computer scientist   (1938-)

Donald Ervin Knuth  established the rigorous analysis of algorithms as a key aspect of computer science.  Complexity theory  studies the best possible  asymptotic  performance of all procedures that can solve a given problem  (running time and/or memory-space used, as functions of input data size).

home   |   The Art of Computer Programming  |  Ph.D. 1963 (Caltech)  |  MacTutor   |   Wikipedia   |   NNDB


 Professor Dame Susan Jocelyn Bell Nurnell (1943-)  Susan Jocelyn Bell,  astrophysicist   (1943-)

Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell  discovered the first  pulsar  (neutron star)  in July 1967 and the next three shortly thereafter.  She was then a Ph.D. student supervised by  Antony Hewish  (who would be awarded a Nobel prize in physics, in 1974, for their subsequent joint work).

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