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Thursday, August 2, 2007

The Greatest Mathematician of All Time


A few months ago, I read a very interesting book on networks theory by physicist Albert-László Barabási. The title is Linked.

With the same models, it shows how the humain brain is like an AIDS epidemics and how the human cell can be understood with the same laws that govern power grids in a big city. It is, indeed, fascinating.

The whole theory is a bit complex to explain in a few lines so I encourage you to read the book, but I wanted to share with you an interresting bit of history about one of the greatests mathematicians of all time that I found while reading the book. Here it is:

Euler, a Swiss born mathematician who spent his career in Berlin and St. Petersburg, had an extraordinary influence on all areas of mathematics, physics and engineering. Not only was the importance of his discoveries unparalleled, their sheer quantity is also overwhelming. Opera Omnia, the still incomplete record of Euler’s collected works, currently runs to over seventy-three volumes, six hundred pages each. The last seventeen years of Euler’s life, between his return to St. Petersburg in 1766 and his death at the age of 76, were rater tumultuous. Yet, despite many personal tragedies, about half of his works were written during these years. These include a 775 page treatise on the motion of the moon, an influential algebra textbook, and a three volume discussion of integral calculus, completed while he continued to publish an average of one mathematics paper per week in the journal of the St. Petersburg Academy. The amazing thing is that he barely wrote or read a single line during this time. Having partially lost his sight soon after returning to St. Petersburg in 1766, Euler was left completely blind after a failed cataract operation in 1771. The thousand of pages of theorems were al dictated from memory.

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