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Category Archives: A mathematical abecedary
Alexandre Grothendieck: a visitation
The letter “G” abounds in great mathematicians: Gauss, Galois and Gödel being only the standardbearers; we also have Germain, Grassmann, Green and Gromov, all worthy of an entry in the abecedary. I, however have chosen to write about Grothendieck, which … Continue reading
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Fermat: this column is too short for a full biography…
Pierre de Fermat was born either in 1601 or in 1607 (in which case he is his own younger brother). In 1653 he contracted plague and was, for a while, “counted among the dead”, and then he wasn’t, and then … Continue reading
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Paul Erdős (19131996): “My brain is open”
Coming to the letter E, it is perverse not to write about Leonhard Euler (1707–1783), one of mathematics’ perennial greats. But then Euler did not travel with his mother and sister in tow, did he, so Paul Erdős wins hands … Continue reading
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René Descartes: plane but not straightforward?
René Descartes (31 March 1596 — 11 February 1650) is decidedly a mixed blessing to humanity. His mind/body duality idea has confused generations upon generations of thinkers. His distillation of the (reductionist) scientific method is arguably naïve and misleading. It … Continue reading
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Geronimo Cardano: thief, cheat and mathematician
Geronimo Cardano (15011576), also known in English as Jerome Cardan, is best known for his Ars Magna, in which he presents a method for solving cubic equations he stole from Tartaglia. In 16th century Italy solving cubic equations was a … Continue reading
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Stefan Banach: a complex Pole
Stefan Banach (18921945), the father of functional analysis, never knew who his mother was, a secret his father took to the grave. He survived the Nazi occupation of Lvov (now Lviv in Ukraine) feeding lice in a German Institute for … Continue reading
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N. H. Abel: dealing with the Devil’s invention
Niels Henrik Abel (18021829) was a son of a Norwegian clergyman. He died of tuberculosis, unemployed and starving. Despite his short life, Abel is famous for his work on group theory (Abelian groups), polynomial equations, real analysis and elliptic functions (Abelian integrals). … Continue reading
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