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 Karl Friedrich Gauss

Karl Friedrich Gauss

Birth
Braunschweig, Stadtkreis Braunschweig, Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen), Germany
Death 23 Feb 1855 (aged 77)
Gottingen, Landkreis Göttingen, Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen), Germany
Burial Gottingen, Landkreis Göttingen, Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen), Germany
Memorial ID 5205 · View Source
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Mathematician, Physical Scientist. He is regarded as one of history's most influential mathematicians and made significant contributions to many fields of study, including number theory, algebra, statistics, analysis, electrostatics, geophysics, astronomy, and optics. He was born to poor working-class parents and at a very early age he began to show his ingenuity skills in mathematics. His abilities soon caught the attention of the Karl William Ferdinand, the Duke of Braunschweig (or Brunswick) who sent him to the Collegium Carolinum (now Technische Universitat Braunschweig) from 1792 to 1795 and the University of Gottingen from 1895 to 1798. In 1796, while at Gottengin, he rediscovered several important theorems, including the revelation that any regular polygon with a number of sides which is Fermant prime (i.e., a number that is divisible by itself or the number 1) can be constructed by a compass and straightedge. This discovery ultimately led him to choose mathematics as a career. Other discoveries that same year include a construction of the heptadecagon and was the first to prove the quadratic reciprocity law. In 1798 he completed his magnum opus, "Disquisitiones Arithmeticae" which was not published until three years later. In 1801 the Italian astronomer Giuseppe Piazza discovered the dwarf planet Ceres, but when it disappeared behind the glare of the Sun, he could not relocate it in a reasonable time when it should have reappeared. Gauss, after hearing of the dilemma, was able to calculate where the planet would appear in December 1801, and was accurate within a half-degree when it was rediscovered by other astronomers that same month. Not believing that the field mathematics by itself could earn a decent living, he looked for a position in the field of astronomy and in 1807 he was appointed Professor of Astronomy at the University of Gottingen as well as the Director of its astronomical observatory, a position he held for the remainder of his life. In the summer of 1818 he started performing a geodesic survey of the Kingdom of Hanover that linked up with previous Danish surveys, which he did every summer for the next ten years. During the process he invented the heliotrope, an instrument that uses a mirror to reflect sunlight over long distances, to measure positions. Also, during this period he became interested in differential geometry, a field of mathematics dealing with curves and surfaces, which ultimately led to the notion of Gaussian curvature (commonly known today as the Bell curve) and theorem "Theorema Egregium." In 1821 he was made a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. In 1831 he collaborated with physics professor Wilhelm Weber in the field of magnetism and together they constructed the first electromechanical telegraph in 1833 which connected the Gottingen observatory with its institute for physics. He built a magnetic observatory in the garden of the observatory and founded the "Magnetischer Verein" (or "magnetic club") with Weber that supported measurements of the Earth's magnetic field in many regions of the world. He developed a method of measuring the horizontal intensity of the magnetic field that remained in use well into the 2nd half of the 20th century, and worked out the mathematical theory for separating the inner and outer magnetospheric sources of the Earth's magnetic field. In 1838 he was awarded the Copley Medal and in 1840 he published "Dioptrische Untersuchungen," the first systematic analysis on the formation of images under a paraxial approximation. In 1854 he selected the topic for mathematician Bernhard Riemann's famous Habilitationvortrag (his academic doctoral qualification lecture), "Uber die Hypothesen, welche der Geometrie zu Grunde liegen." He died the following year at the age of 77. His brain was preserved for study and highly developed convolutions were found, which in the early 20th century was suggested as the explanation of his genius. From 1989 through 2001 his portrait, along with a normal distribution curve were featured on the front of the German ten-mark banknote.

Bio by: William Bjornstad


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 28 Apr 1999
  • Find A Grave Memorial 5205
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Karl Friedrich Gauss (30 Apr 1777–23 Feb 1855), Find A Grave Memorial no. 5205, citing Albanifriedhof, Gottingen, Landkreis Göttingen, Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen), Germany ; Maintained by Find A Grave .