Mathematics is an essential and central part of our world. The fascinating realm of thought helps us advance in other fields. Long before the development of math gave us computers and quantum mechanics, brilliant minds built up basic mathematical ideas. Many of the formulas we use nowadays come from the Ancient Greece period.
From Ancient Greece to the 18th century, mathematicians tried to formulate the equation for calculating different things. These tools and ideas sit as the foundation of our understanding of math. Let’s take a look at some of the iconic mathematicians.
Born in December 1642, Sir Isaac Newton was an English mathematician, astronomer, author, and physicist. He described himself as a natural philosopher. Widely regarded and recognized as one of the most influential scientists of all time, Newton came up with the theory and law of motion.
Sir Isaac wrote one of the most important books on science and mathematics, Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy. Today, we know it as Principia.
In his book, he made seminal contributions to optics, classical mechanics, and developed infinitesimal calculus.
Today, we remember Newton as the founder of the laws of motion and universal gravitation.
Carl Friedrich Gauss
Born in April 1777, Carl Gauss was a German mathematician and physicist. He made significant contributions to the field. Some even refer to him as “the foremost of mathematicians”.
His biggest contribution is the 1799 doctorate in absentia, a new proof of the “theorem that every integral rational function of one variable can be resolved into real factors of the first or second degree”.
With it, Gauss proved the fundamental theorem of algebra. He also made huge contributions to the number theory with his 1801 book Arithmetical Investigations. This book introduced the triple bar symbol for congruence.
Some of his proven theorems include Fermat’s last theorem, Descartes’s rule of signs, Kepler conjecture for regular arrangements, and Fermat’s polygonal number theorem for n=3.
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz
The German mathematician remains one of the most important logicians and natural philosophers of the Enlightenment. He developed the ideas of differential and integral calculus. Working as a contemporary to Isaac Newton, Leibniz set the foundation for mathematics.
His law of continuity and transcendental law of homogeneity found mathematical implementation in the 20th century. Leibniz remains one of the most prolific inventors in the field of mechanical calculators.
While working on adding automatic multiplication, he described a pinwheel calculator in 1685. He also invented the Leibniz wheel, the first mass-produced mechanical calculator.
Leibniz refined the binary number system, the foundation of nearly all digital computers.
Going back to Ancient Greece, Euclid of Alexandria was a mathematician. We refer to him as the founder of geometry and the father of geometry.
In the history of mathematics, Euclid’s Elements remain one of the most influential works. It served as the main textbook for teaching mathematics and geometry until the late 19th and early 20th century. Yes, scientists for centuries taught mathematics using his book.
His biggest accomplishment is presenting results in a single, logically coherent framework. It made it easy to use and easy to reference.
Euclid also came up with a system of rigorous mathematical proofs that remains the basis of mathematics to this day.
Albert Einstein is among the most influential modern mathematician. The German theoretical physicist developed the theory of relativity, one of the two pillars of modern physics. He came up with the mass-energy equivalence formula E = mc2.
Near the beginning of his career, he thought about the laws of classical mechanics. He believed these can no longer follow the development of the electromagnetic field.
As a result, he wanted to develop a new theory. And that is how Einstein came up with the special theory of relativity.
At the tie, many in the scientific community viewed his work with skepticism. But with time, he got recognized as one of the most significant contributors to the world of science and mathematics.
Simply put, without Alan Turing, we might not have had computers. He developed theoretical computer science. Turing gave us the basis of the concepts of algorithms and computation using his Turing machine.
Many consider the Turing machine a model of a general-purpose computer. The father of theoretical computer science and artificial intelligence worked for the Government Code and Cypher School during World War II. Fun fact: he never got fully recognized in his home country due to the prevalence of homophobia.
During World War II, he came up with the Enigma Machine, a device that played a crucial role in cracking intercepted coded messages. These enabled the Allies to defeat the Nazis in many crucial engagements.
In 1952, he got prosecuted for homosexual acts. In 2009, following an Internet campaign, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown made an official public apology for the way Turing got treated.
Here is another Ancient Greek mathematician that came up with the basis of modern mathematics. Pythagoras influenced many philosophers following him, including Plato and Aristotle.
As for his mathematical contribution, he came up with the Pythagorean theorem, Pythagorean tuning, the five regular solids, the theory of proportions, and more.
Fun fact: Pythagoras used mathematics for solely mystical reasons. He believed all things consisted of numbers. He considered 10 as the perfect number. He never gathered groups larger than 10.
His theorem states that “in a right-angled triangle, the square of the hypotenuse side is equal to the sum of squares of the other two sides”.
The Ancient Greek mathematician, physicist, engineer, and inventor contributed a lot to the field of mathematics. Many consider him the greatest mathematician of ancient history.
He anticipated modern calculus and analysis by applying concepts of infinitesimals. He came up with the area of a circle, the surface area and volume of a sphere, the area of an eclipse, and more.
But his most significant contribution is deriving an accurate approximation of Pi. Today, we mostly remember the story of how he came up with the Archimedes principle. He invented a method for determining the volume of an object with an irregular shape by taking a bath.
Fibonacci was an Italian mathematician from the Republic of Pisa. Many consider him the most talented mathematician of the Middle Ages.
He popularized the Hindu-Arabic numeral system in the Western world through his composition in 1202, Book of Calculation.
Fibonacci introduced Europe to the sequence of Fibonacci numbers. He used them as an example in his Book of Calculation.
His book posed and solved a problem with the growth of a population of rabbits based on idealized assumptions. The solution, according to the author, lies in a sequence of numbers that we now know as Fibonacci numbers.
In his sequence, each number is the sum of the previous two numbers. He omitted zero and began the sequence with 1, 1, 2….
The only woman on this list, the German mathematician Noether made contributions to abstract algebra. She discovered Noether’s theorem, a fundamental part of mathematical physics.
She originally planned to teach French and English, but instead, opt to study mathematics at the University of Erlangen. After completing her doctorate in 1907, she worked at the Mathematical Institute for seven years without pay. She would later join the Göttingen mathematics department and stay there until 1933.
We can divide her work into three epochs. The first one, when she made contributions to the theories of algebraic invariants and number fields. In the second, she worked in the field of abstract algebra. And in the third epoch, she united the representation theory of groups with the theory of modules and ideas.
Her work in abstract algebra and topology remains an influential part of mathematics. And in physics, her theorem has consequences for theoretical physics and dynamical systems.