Why Google is honouring Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss – the German mathematician

The Google Doodle today celebrates the life of lauded mathematician Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss – who made an unusual gravestone wish before his death.

The mathematician had an exceptional influence in many fields of maths and science and would have been 241 years old on April 30 2018.

He is sometimes called ‘The Prince of Mathematicians’.

Gauss, whose name is spelt Gauß in his native German, was born in 1777 and he died in 1855.

Although his mother was illiterate Gauss was a child prodigy who, according to legend, worked out how to add up all the numbers from 1 to 100 when he was just eight.

Gauss noticed that if he was to split the numbers into two groups (1 to 50 and 51 to100), he could add them together vertically to get a sum of 101. Gauss realized then that his final total would be 50(101) = 5050.

Gauss’ discoveries regarding the construction of polygons pleased him so much he requested a regular heptadecagon (that is,a 17-sided shape) be inscribed on his tombstone.

However the stonemason decline because the construction would be difficult and essentially just look like a circle.

His magnum opus, Disquisitiones Arithmeticae, was completed when he was just 21 in 1798.

Three years later Gauss announced he had calculated the orbit of the asteroid Ceres. which is the largest object in the asteroid belt that lies between Mars and Jupiter.

He married in 1805 and had a son and a daughter with her before she died in 1809.

Gauss remarried a year later and had three more children but biographers say the mathematician was never quite the same without his first wife suffering from bouts of depression, so he grew to dominate his children.

He did not want any of his sons to enter mathematics or science for "fear of lowering the family name", as he believed none of them would surpass his own achievements.

His second wife died in 1831.

That same year Gauss started to collaborate with physics professor Wilhelm Weber , leading to new knowledge in magnetism and the discovery of Kirchhoff’s circuit laws in electricity.

It was at this time he formulated Gauss’s Law, relating the distribution of electric charge to the resulting electric field.

Together with Weber they produced the first electromechanical telegraph in 1833 which connected the observatory with the institute for physics in Gottingen.

In 1840 he published the influential Dioptrische Untersuchungen. Gauss didn’t write often with his life motto being "few, but ripe".

Five years later he became a member of the Royal Institute of the Netherlands.

He died of a heart attack in 1855 with his brain preserved and studied by Rudolf Wagner.

It was found to have mass slightly above average at 1,492 grams and a larger cerebral area.

In his extraordinary lifetime Gauss contributed to a number of fields including number theory, algebra, statistics, analysis, differential geometry, geodesy, geophysics, mechanics, electrostatics, magnetic fields, astronomy, matrix theory and optics.

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