Euler
Euler made large bounds in modern analytic geometry and trigonometry.
He made decisive and formative contributions to geometry, calculus and
number theory.
Euler's father wanted his son to follow him into the church and sent
him to the University of Basel to prepare for the ministry. However
geometry soon became his favourite subject. Euler obtained his
father's consent to change to mathematics after Johann Bernoulli had
used his persuasion. Bernoulli became his teacher.
He joined the St. Petersburg Academy of Science in 1727, two years
after it was founded by Catherine I the wife of Peter the Great. Euler
served as a medical lieutenant in the Russian navy from 1727 to 1730.
In St Petersburg he lived with Daniel Bernoulli. He became professor
of physics at the academy in 1730 and professor of mathematics in
1733. He married and left Bernoulli's house in 1733. He had 13
children altogether of which 5 survived their infancy. He claimed that
he made some of his greatest discoveries while holding a baby on his
arm with other children playing round his feet.
The publication of many articles and his book Mechanica (173637),
which extensively presented Newtonian dynamics in the form of
mathematical analysis for the first time, started Euler on the way to
major mathematical work.
In 1741, at the invitation of Frederick the Great, Euler joined the
Berlin Academy of Science, where he remained for 25 years. Even while
in Berlin he received part of his salary from Russia and never got on
well with Frederick. During his time in Berlin, he wrote over 200
articles, three books on mathematical analysis, and a popular
scientific publication Letters to a Princess of Germany (3 vols.,
176872).
In 1766 Euler returned to Russia. He had been arguing with Frederick
the Great over academic freedom and Frederick was greatly angered at
his departure. Euler lost the sight of his right eye at the age of 31
and soon after his return to St Petersburg he became almost entirely
blind after a cataract operation. Because of his remarkable memory was
able to continue with his work on optics, algebra, and lunar motion.
Amazingly after 1765 (when Euler was 58) he produced almost half his
works despite being totally blind.
After his death in 1783 the St. Petersburg Academy continued to
publish Euler's unpublished work for nearly 50 more years.
Euler made large bounds in modern analytic geometry and trigonometry.
He made decisive and formative contributions to geometry, calculus and
number theory. In number theory he did much work in correspondence
with Goldbach. He integrated Leibniz's differential calculus and
Newton's method of fluxions into mathematical analysis. In number
theory he stated the prime number theorem and the law of biquadratic
reciprocity.
He was the most prolific writer of mathematics of all time. His
complete works contains 886 books and papers.
We owe to him the notations f(x) (1734), e for the base of natural
logs (1727), i for the square root of 1 (1777), the usual symbol for
pi, (Sigma) for summation (1755) etc. He also introduced beta and
gamma functions, integrating factors for differential equations etc.
He studied continuum mechanics, lunar theory with Clairaut, the three
body problem, elasticity, acoustics, the wave theory of light,
hydraulics, music etc. He laid the foundation of analytical mechanics,
especially in his Theory of the Motions of Rigid Bodies (1765).
Biographies of mathematicians are from the
History of
Mathematics archive at the University of St. Andrews, and are
used with permission.
