Mathematician:Carl Friedrich Gauss

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Mathematician

One of the most influential mathematicians of all time, contributing to many fields, including number theory, statistics, analysis and differential geometry.


According to legend, he was correcting his father's arithmetic at the age of $3$.


Nationality

German


History

  • Born: 30 April 1777 in Braunschweig, in the Electorate of Brunswick-Lüneburg (now part of Lower Saxony, Germany)
  • 1792 -- 1795: Attended the Collegium Carolinum (now Technische Universität Braunschweig)
  • 1795 -- 1798: University of Göttingen
  • 1807: Appointed Professor of Astronomy and Director of the astronomical observatory in Göttingen
  • 1820: Embarked on an exercise to supervise a geodetic survey of the Kingdom of Hanover
  • 1833: Constructed the first electromagnetic telegraph with Wilhelm Eduard Weber
  • Died: 23 February 1855 in Göttingen, Hannover (now part of Lower Saxony, Germany)


Theorems and Inventions

Also:

Results named for Carl Friedrich Gauss can be found here.

Definitions of concepts named for Carl Friedrich Gauss can be found here.


Publications


Notable Quotes

Mathematics is the Queen of the Sciences, and Arithmetic the Queen of Mathematics.
-- Quoted in 1937: Eric Temple Bell: Men of Mathematics: They Say: What Say They? : Let Them Say


The operation of distinguishing prime numbers from composites, and of resolving composite numbers into their prime factors, is one of the most important and useful in all of arithmetic. It has engaged the industry and wisdom of ancient and modern geometers to such an extent ... The dignity of science seems to demand that every aid to the solution of such an elegant and celebrated problem be zealously cultivated. -- Disquisitiones Arithmeticae, article $329$.
-- Quoted at the end of of 1969: Donald E. Knuth: The Art of Computer Programming: Volume 2: Seminumerical Algorithms: Section $4.5$
-- Quoted by David Wells in Section $257$ of his Curious and Interesting Numbers of $1986$, requoting John Brillhart


I mean the word proof not in the sense of the lawyers, who set two half proofs equal to a whole one, but in the sense of the mathematician, where $\frac 1 2$ proof $= 0$ and it is demanded for proof that every doubt becomes impossible.


You know that I write slowly. This is chiefly because I am never satisfied until I have said as much as possible in a few words, and writing briefly takes far more time than writing at length.


It is not knowledge but the act of learning, not possession but the act of getting there, which grants the greatest enjoyment. When I have clarified and exhausted a subject, then I turn away from it in order to go into darkness again.
-- Letter to Wolfgang Bolyai


The higher arithmetic presents us with an inexhaustible store of interesting truths -- of truths too, which are not isolated, but stand in a close internal connection, and between which, as our knowledge increases, we are continually discovering new and sometimes wholly unexpected ties. A great part of its theories derives an additional charm from the peculiarity that important propositions, with the impress of simplicity upon them, are often easily discoverable by induction, and yet are of so profound a character that we cannot find their demonstration till after many vain attempts; and even then, when we do succeed, it is often by some tedious and artificial process, while the simpler methods may long remain concealed.
-- Translated by H.J.S. Smith from Gauss's introduction to the collected papers of Ferdinand Eisenstein
-- Quoted in 1937: Eric Temple Bell: Men of Mathematics: Chapter $\text{IV}$: The Prince of Amateurs


In arithmetic the most elegant theorems frequently arise experimentally as the result of a more or less unexpected stroke of good fortune, while their proofs lie so deeply embedded in darkness that they defeat the sharpest enquiries.
-- Quoted in 1986: David Wells: Curious and Interesting Numbers: Introduction


Critical View

He is like the fox, who effaces his tracks in the sand with his tail.
-- Niels Henrik Abel


The name of Gauss is linked to almost everything that the mathematics of our century [ the nineteenth ] has brought forth in the way of original scientific ideas.
-- Leopold Kronecker


Also known as

Full name: Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss.

Some sources (perhaps in error) report his first name as Karl.


Sources