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Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777--1855) --- Historical Sketch

You may have heard the story of a German elementary school teacher who had his students sum the numbers from $1$ to $100$. While the other students were working on it, one little boy simply wrote the correct sum of $5050$ on his slate almost instantly. That little boy, aged $7$, was Carl Friedrich Gauss, and whether those events happened in precisely that way is possibly open to doubt, the substance of the story seems from biographies to be true. Young Carl had simply noticed that the $100$ numbers could be paired so that each of the $50$ pairs added up to $101.$

Such cleverness was to mark the mathematical career of Gauss, who was born in April of 1777 in Brunswick, Germany. He entered high school at the age of $11$ and then at age $15$ entered the academy Brunswick Collegium Carolinum, where he independently discovered several mathematical theorems on his own. He then in 1795, Gauss began his studies at Göttingen University. leaving three years later without graduating, but upon returning to Brunswick, he received a degree in 1799. He then, at the urging and financial support of the Duke of Brunswick, submitted his doctoral thesis to the University of Helmstedt.

In 1807, Gauss became director of the observatory in Göttingen, and two years later, he published a two-volume work on celestial bodies, and in his mathematical works, he undertook studies of numerical and statistical estimations. He also became absorbed by the study of geodesics and working on surveys, publishing many works on such.

In 1816, Gauss began working seriously on non-Euclidean geometries as well as in differential geometry while continuing over the next several years to work in physics, astronomy, and magnetism, proving that there can be but two magnetic poles on the earth and even calculated the location of the South pole.

After a long life of hard work and numerous mathematical and scientific discoveries, Gauss died in his sleep in early 1855. If your interest in Gauss has been kindled, you might like to visit an interesting site constructed by one of his great great great grandsons. You can find it at: http://www.mathsong.com/cfgauss/.


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Divergence theorem

Gaussian quadrature

Historical sketches


Copyright © 2006 Darel Hardy, Fred Richman, Carol Walker, Robert Wisner. All rights reserved. Except upon the express prior permission in writing, from the authors, no part of this work may be reproduced, transcribed, stored electronically, or transmitted in any form by any method.

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