Johann Carl FriedrichGauss (1777-1855) was a celebrated Mathematician,often cited as the “greatest mathematician since antiquity” or the “Prince ofMathematicians” due to his significant and influential contributions to modernmathematics and science.Gauss was a genius and prodigy who pushed the envelope of knowledge in numbertheory,astronomy,and numerous other mathematical and scientific fields. Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss was bornon April 30,1777 in Brunswick,Germany to uneducated parents.
His birth date was not remembered by his mother,all she could remember that it was a Wednesday eight days prior to Ascension. Gauss later had solved the mysteryof his birth mathematically and even devised a formula in order to determinethe day when Easter will be.Gauss’s father worked as a gardener,stonecutter,and laborer and his mother was a homemaker.
Both of Gauss’s parents were known to be illiterate; his father wanted him tolearn trades and discouraged him from attending school. His mother, along with his uncle however sawthat he had potential and sought to provide him an education. Gauss was seven years old whenhe began elementary school and it was then when Gauss’s genius was discovered;an arithmetic teacher intended to provide his class an assignment that wasthought to be time consuming,to sum the total of numbers from 1 to 100.Gauss brilliantly figured the solution out by finding the numerical relation thatevery pair equals 101 (e.
g. 1+100 = 101, 2 + 99 = 101, etc) then multiplied by 50 and quicklypresented his answer to the teacher’s surprise: 5,050. His exploits as a child prodigywas noticed by the Duke of Brunswick and he financially supported Gauss’seducation and then research. Gauss attended the CollegiumCarolinum in 1792 and then moved to the Goettingen University in 1795.
Gauss’s accomplishments during thetime included the discoveries of various theorems such as the binomial theorem, prime number theorem, law of quadratic reciprocity, Bode’s law, and the fundamental theorem ofalgebra which was written in his book “Disquisitiones Arithmeticae” (Investigations in arithmetic). Gauss had also made contributionsto astronomy when he assisted an astronomer in relocating the then planet Ceres. As astronomers lost track of Ceres’orbit Gauss had used his method involving least squares to approximate itslocation and his estimate being exceedingly different from other estimations, was correct. Gauss essentially wrote the textbookabout number theory when he published his Disquisitiones Arithmeticae. Number theory involves theintricate relationships and properties of numbers,specifically positive integers.Gauss referred to mathematics as “queen of the sciences” and number theoryspecifically “queen of mathematics”.The book had seven sections and comprised of three introductory, three body sections, and a final section about adifferent topic.It was his work in proving the law of quadratic reciprocity in section four thatgained him fame.
The last section of Disquisitiones was less involved with number theory, but was focused on the methodsused by Gauss in order to draw a heptadecagon or seventeen-sided polygon usingonly a ruler and a compass. Gausshad a penchant for Astronomy; after he assisted in rediscovering Ceres Gausspublished his second book “Theory of the motion of the heavenly bodiessurrounding the sun in conic sections”. The book was in two volumes, the firstvolume covered mathematical functions such as differential equations, ellipticorbits, and conic sections. The second volume demonstrated a process by which anestimation can be made as to a planet or interstellar object’s orbit and thenhow to increase the precision of the estimate as the object is tracked. Gausswas appointed as the director of the Goettingen University observatory, aposition he remained in until his death in 1855.