greatest mathematicians

Greatest Mathematicians A-Z

Greatest Mathematicians of All-Time A-Z List

An Algorithm Must Be Seen To Be believed

Stanford Professor Donald Knuth, one of the greatest mathematicians alive today, wrote this quote. An algorithm is a way to solve problems using a formula or procedure. Algorithm is named after the famous Persian mathematician and astronomer Mohammed ibn-Musa al-Khwarizmi born around 780 AD. His name translated into Latin as “Algoritmi” which we spell as algorithm today.

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Greatest Mathematicians Born Died Country Fields + Awards Greatest Mathematicians General Knowledge Facts & Trivia
Al-Khwarizmi, Muhammad, c780 c850 Iran. Mathematics and astronomy. Muhammad Al-Khwarizmi is credited with formalizing the so-called Arabic numerals 0-9 (which he transferred from the Indians), the four basic arithmetic operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division) as well as algebra and algorithms (algorithm even derives from the Latin spelling of his name). One of the greatest mathematicians in history.
Alberti, Leon Battista c1404 c1472 Italy. Mathematics and physics. Leon Battista Alberti was a versatile talent. He studied physics, mathematics, law and art. He was also an inventor, architect and author in several languages. He was a talented rider, athlete, musician and composer.
Ampère, André M 1775 1863 France. Mathematics and physics. André Ampère is regarded as the founder of electrodynamics. He discovered electric currents exert attractive and repulsive forces on each other, which is cause of magnetism. The unit for measuring the strength of an electric current “Amp” is named after him.
Archimedes c287 BC c212 BC Greece. Mathematics, physics and mechanics. Archimedes was a multi-talented genius. He calculated the number pi and founded the current day integral calculus. Archimedes discovered “specific gravity” when a full bath tub overflowed when he stepped into it. “The volume of a body is equal to the amount of water it displaces” – very important when building ships. He invented the “Archimedes screw” to pump water and developed a system for calculating large numbers. Archimedes was also a shipbuilder and designed modern weapons and war techniques including catapults. One of the greatest mathematicians of all time.
Aristarchus of Samos c310 BC c230 BC Greece. Astronomy and mathematics. Aristarchus of Samos calculated the distance from the sun to the moon and their sizes. He was the first to explain the heliocentric system (the earth revolving around the sun) and the sphere of fixed stars. Copernicus later took over his teachings.
Bolyai, János 1802 1860 Hungary. Mathematics. János Bolyai led an exciting life alternating between military service, studying mathematics, learning nine languages, playing the violin and numerous duels. Bolyai is most famous for his treatise on geometry, which refuted Euclid’s parallel postulate.
Châtelet, Émilie du
1706 1749 France Mathematics, Physics. Émilie du Châtelet translated and commented on Isaac Newton’s Principia, which detailed the basic laws of physics. With this she made a considerable contribution to Newtonian mechanics. She published her most famous work Foundations of Physics in 1740, which was republished in several languages and caused much debate. She was Voltaire’s paramour and lived with him from 1733.
Copernicus, Nicholas
1473 1543 Germany / Poland. Astronomy and mathematics. Nicolaus Copernicus shattered the old worldview in 1543. Copernicus found the Earth, which rotates on its own axis every 24 hours, is one of many planets revolving around the fixed sun. He further concluded the moon rotates in circular orbits around the Earth and that fixed stars don’t move.
Descartes, René 1596 1650 France. Mathematics and philosophy. René Descartes was one of France’s most famous scientists. He was regarded, along with Pierre de Fermat (1607-1665) as one of the fathers of analytic geometry. He was a leading figure in the scientific revolution. Descartes set new standards with his work on dynamics, optics and astronomy. Descartes’ most famous quote is:

I think; therefore I am (cogito ergo sum)

Doppler, Christian 1803 1853 Austria. Physics and mathematics. Christian Doppler calculated changes in the frequency of a moving object “Doppler effect“. When the observer and source are approaching each other the frequency increases, when moving away from each other, it decreases.
Einstein, Albert 1879 1955 Germany. Mathematics and physics. Nobel Prize 1921. Albert Einstein’s two theories of relativity revolutionized the understanding of matter, space, time and gravitation. Everything is relative to the respective observation system, including time. Therefore, there is no absolute simultaneity. The only constant is the speed of light. It cannot be exceeded. Einstein concluded: Energy is Mass times the speed of light (C – from the Latin celeritas meaning speed) squared (E = MC2), i.e. matter is condensed energy. Every gram of mass contains huge amounts of energy. An insight that (unfortunately) also led to the construction of the atomic bomb. One of the most famous scientists of all time.
Eudoxus of Cnidus c408 BC c355 BC Greece. Mathematics and astronomy. Eudoxus was the creator of the doctrine of ratio equations and volume calculations for circles, spheres, cones and pyramids. Physician and teacher of Menaechmus (380-320 BC), who discovered the ellipse, parabola and hyperbola.
Euclid of Alexandria c360 BC c280 BC Greece. Mathematics. Euclid’s principal work was the “Elements of Geometry” consisting of 13 books. Among other topics, it deals with formulas, triangles, parallelograms, spheres, cones, circular gauges and many other mathematical theorems like the parallels axiom “the sum of the angles in a triangle is always 180°“.
Euler, Leonhard 1707 1783 Switzerland. Mathematics and physics. Leonard Euler was one of the most prolific scientists despite going blind later in life. Euler wrote 866 publications, established new symbols such as the summation sign Σ, founded the calculus of variations and, partly, analysis. In mechanics, Euler discovered equations for the motion of rigid bodies and fluids (hydrodynamics), and developed a wave theory to calculate lens in the field of optics. One of the greatest mathematicians of all time.
Fibonacci, Leonardo c1170 c1250 Italy, Pisa. Mathematics. Leonardo Fibonacci was also known as Leonardo of Pisa, Leonardo Bonacci and Leonardo Pisano. Fibonacci was most famous for the Fibonacci sequence of numbers. Each number in the sequence is the sum of the previous two numbers. The irrational number “Phi”,  also known as the golden ratio, can be derived from the Fibonacci sequence. Architects and artists throughout history, by accident or design, used aesthetic proportions close to Phi (φ).
Fermat, Pierre de 1601 1665 France. Mathematics. Pierre de Fermat was a lawyer who only dabbled with mathematics in his spare time. He remained unknown during his lifetime. It was only after his death that other greatest scientists spotted the basics of analytic geometry in his writings which he had found independently of René Descartes. Fermat is also renowned for his “Fermat’s Last Theorem” which says that no triples of whole numbers satisfy the equation xn + yn = zn has no whole number solution when n is greater than 2.
Gauss, Karl Friedrich 1777 1855 Germany. Mathematics and astronomy. Gauss was a versatile genius. Aged 15 he had already deduced a connection between prime numbers and logarithms and discovered “the method of least squares”. Gauss influenced the fields of algebra with evidence of the so-called fundamental theorem (an equation of the nth degree has n roots), stochastics, integral calculus (Gaussian set), and magnetism. Ahead of other greatest mathematicians Gauss was the first to refute the Euclidean parallel postulate. He also found an easy way to represent complex numbers using the coordinate system. Gauss computed planetary orbits and optical laws. Together with Wilhelm Weber (1804-1891) he built the first electromagnetic telegraph system.
Grassmann, Hermann 1809 1877 Germany. Mathematics and physics. Hermann Grassmann was an introverted philologist and autodidact in mathematics. He conducted research on electrical currents, color theory, acoustics, phonetics and harmony. Grassmann’s mathematical work “The theory of linear extension” contained treatises on quaternions, matrix calculus and vector calculations. On of the greatest mathematicians of all time.
Hamilton, Rowan 1805 1865 Great Britain. Mathematics and physics. Rowan Hamilton was a prodigy who spoke 13 languages. Hamilton was appointed head of an observatory aged just 23. By 27 he was a well-known scientist who created the quaternions (hyper complex numbers a + bi + cj + dk) and vector calculus.
Hawking, Stephen 1942 2018 Great Britain. Astrophysics and mathematics. Despite suffering from ALS (motor neurone disease) for over 50 years, the English physicist Stephen Hawking researched the black holes of our universe. He wrote the 1988 bestseller A Brief History of Time and in 2001 The Universe in a Nutshell. Hawking was one of the greatest scientists of the 20th century and joins this list of famous scientists in history.
Hero of Alexandria c10 AD c70 AD Greece / Egypt. Mathematics and mechanics. Hero of Alexandria (also known as Heron of Alexandria) was one of the greatest mathematicians, an engineer and inventor. Hero was expert at putting science into practice. Hero was among the first to build many machines including; vending machines, force / piston pump, windwheel / windmill, music machines, a fountain “Hero’s fountain”. He described a design for a steam turbine called an aeolipile or “Hero engine”.
Herschel, William 1738 1822 Germany / Great Britain. Astronomy and mathematics. William Herschel was a dedicated astronomer who observed the night sky through his home-made telescope. Herschel discovered the planet Uranus, the Milky Way and concluded all stars are suns. Herschel was one of the most famous scientists of all time.
Hilbert, David 1862 1943 Germany. Mathematics. David Hilbert reduced geometry to a series of axioms. Hilbert is most famous for his list of the 23 big “problems of mathematics” (his 24th was found later) in 1900. Many of the 23 have since been solved by other famous mathematicians.
Hipparchos c190 BC c120 BC Greece. Astronomy and mathematics. Observed over 1000 stars and recorded them in a catalog and a map of the sky. Hipparchos calculated the length of the sun’s and of the sidereal year as well as the lunar month. He is considered the founder of trigonometry.
Huygens, Christian 1629 1695 The Netherlands. Physics, mathematics and astronomy. Jack of all trades. Discovered the rings of Saturn with a self-made telescope, constructed new pendant and pocket watches, explained the theory of probability, described the so-called impact law, founded a new theory of light and dealt with vibration and circular motion (centrifugal force).
Kepler, Johannes 1571 1630 Germany. Astronomy and mathematics. Johannes Kepler discovered the laws of planetary motion (ellipses) and recorded a profile of star orbits. His calculations used integrals and logarithms for the first time. Kepler also confirmed discoveries made by Galileo Galilei.
Kirch, Maria Margarethe 1670 1720 Germany. Mathematics and Astronomy. Maria Kirch, born Winkelmann, was one of the first famous astronomers due to her writings on the conjunction of the sun with Saturn, Venus, and Jupiter. She was educated by her father, a minister, who believed girls deserved the same education as boys. Her husband, Gottfried Kirch, was a famous German astronomer and mathematician and 30 years older. They worked together as a team and had 4 children, all of whom also studied astronomy. In 1702, she became the first woman to discover a new comet, now known as the “Comet of 1702”, and published widely on astronomy. When her husband died, she tried to take his place at the Royal Academy of Sciences but the Academy refused. One of the greatest female mathematicians of all time.
Knuth, Donald Emeritus 1938 USA. Mathematics and computer science. Witty Stanford University Professor Donald Knuth is famous in the world of computer programming and is known by some as the “father of the analysis of algorithms”. Having created various programming systems and architectures himself he is personally against software patents.
Lagrange, Joseph-Louis 1736 1813 Italy. Astronomy and mathematics. Joseph-Louis Lagrange was a maths professor at just 19 years old. He performed ground-breaking work in almost all areas of pure mathematics, he founded analytical mechanics (Lagrangian), solved the three-body problem in celestial mechanics (Lagrangian points), the calculus of variations and the theory of complex functions!
Laplace, Pierre Simon 1749 1827 France. Physics, mathematics and astronomy. Pierre Laplace lived through the French Revolution, Napoleon and the Bourbons all at close quarters. He still managed to focus on his probability theory (in games of chance), “celestial mechanics” (the calculation of planetary orbits, and the existence of black holes).
Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm 1646 1716 Germany. Mathematics, physics and philosophy. Wilhelm Leibniz worked intensively with symbolic logic. Along with Sir Isaac Newton, he developed the differential and infinitesimal calculus, introduced the integral sign, built a calculating machine (in 1672) which could multiply, divide and extract square roots, developed the dual system (precursor of modern computer technology), invented a device to measure wind and drafted plans for submarines!
Lobachevsky, Nikolai Ivanovich 1793 1856 Russia. Mathematics. Nikolai Lobachevsky, a Russian mathematician, developed the first complete system of non-Euclidean geometry. It was based on the hypothesis of the acute angle (hyperbolic geometry). His work on hyperbolic geometry is also known as “Lobachevskian geometry“. His fundamental study on Dirichlet integrals is also known as “Lobachevsky integral formula“.
Lorenz, Konrad 1903 1989 Austria. Zoology. Nobel Prize 1973. Konrad Lorenz is still considered one of the most important behavioral researchers (anthropologist) of all time. After his experiments, mainly in graylag geese (Anser anser), in particular one goose named “Martina“, he established the concept of “imprinting”. Lorenz received the Nobel Prize in 1973 for his research.
Maxwell, James 1831 1879 Great Britain. Physics and mathematics. James Maxwell discovered that light is electromagnetic radiation and contributed valuable input to the theory of gases and heat. Among other achievements, Maxwell calculated the average speed of molecules in gases “Maxwell’s Law” and discovered new insights in optics.
Newton, Sir Isaac 1642 1727 Great Britain. Physics, mathematics and astronomy. Isaac Newton was an introverted genius and child prodigy. As a child student in Cambridge Isaac Newton revolutionized the fields of mathematics (calculus), optics (color theory) and mechanics (universal gravitation, formulated after an apple fell from a tree hitting him on the head). Later Newton calculated Kepler’s laws of planetary motion, lunar orbit and tides, described the “binomial theorem”, devised formulas for calculating sound velocity and the penetrative power of missiles. In order to avoid frequent disturbances by his cat, he even developed the cat flap. Newton’s greatest work was the “Prinicipia Mathematica” in 1687. Newton is one of the greatest mathematicians of all time.
Noether, Amalie Emmy 1882 1935 German. Mathematics, Physics. Amalie Noether was notable for her work on abstract algebra and theoretical physics. Albert Einstein described her as the most important woman in the history of mathematics. Other special fields were theories about rings, fields, and algebras. “Noether’s theorem”, published in 1918, states the connection between symmetry and its corresponding conservation law.
Omar Khayyam 1048 1131 Persia. Mathematics, astronomy and philosophy. Perian Omar Khayyam solved cubic equations in an algebraic and geometric manner. He also examined the so-called “Pascal’s triangle” and irrational numbers. Khayyam designed the Islamic calendar and was also a philosopher and a poet.
Pascal, Blaise 1623 1662 France. Mathematics and physics. Blaise Pascal proved the existence of the vacuum. His experiment, known as “Vacuum in the vacuum“, placed a mercury barometer in the center of another barometer. Pascal also discovered air pressure decreases with height. He was the co-founder of probability theory.
Pauli, Wolfgang 1900 1958 Austria. Physics and mathematics. Nobel Prize 1945. Wolfgang Pauli provided important insights into quantum physics. Specifically his “exclusion principle” is related to so-called spin. Pauli received the 1945 Nobel Prize in Physics for these principles.
Pythagoras c569 BC c475 BC Greece. Mathematics, philosophy and astronomy. Pythagoras was one of the greatest mathematicians of all time. He was also a notable philosopher and astronomer. Pythagoras founded a school called “The Semicircle of Pythagoras” which blended science and religion. It’s thought discoveries made by its members were attributed to Pythagoras, possibly even Pythagoras’ Theorem.
Riemann, Bernhard 1826 1866 Germany. Mathematics and physics. Bernhard Riemann was instrumental in non-Euclidean geometry “parallel axiom“, the general theory of functions and differential equations.
Stevin, Simon 1548 1620 The Netherlands. Physics and mathematics. Simon Stevin is the founder of modern statics and hydrostatics. Stevin formulated the law of forces; the “hydrostatic paradox” and other laws such as the relationship between force and displacement on an inclined plane.
Vieta, Francois 1540 1603 France. Mathematics. Vieta introduced letters, fraction bars, the root sign and parentheses into mathematics in order to simplify calculations and make formulas more understandable. Thomas Harriot (1560-1621) replaced Vieta’s large letters with small ones, thus founding modern algebraic notation.
Weierstraß, Karl 1815 1897 Germany. Mathematics. Karl Weierstrass made important discoveries for the further development of the general function theory, number theory, and power series. His main work dealt with the proper foundation of analysis (for example in the treatment of infinite products). He also coined the term uniform convergence “Weierstrass criterion“.

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