Mathematicians

David Hilbert

David Hilbert

He made a series of conjectures on class field theory. The concepts were highly influential, and his own contribution lives on in the names of the Hilbert class field and of the Hilbert symbol of local class field theory. Results were mostly proved by 1930, after work by Teiji Takagi.

Hilbert did not work in the central areas of analytic number theory, but his name has become known for the Hilbert–Pólya conjecture, for reasons that are anecdotal.

His collected works (Gesammelte Abhandlungen) have been published several times. The original versions of his papers contained “many technical errors of varying degree”; when the collection was first published, the errors were corrected and it was found that this could be done without major changes in the statements of the theorems, with one exception—a claimed proof of the continuum hypothesis. The errors were nonetheless so numerous and significant that it took Olga Taussky-Todd three years to make the corrections. Like Albert Einstein, Hilbert had closest contacts with the Berlin Group whose leading founders had studied under Hilbert in Göttingen.

By the time Hilbert died in 1943, the Nazis had nearly completely restaffed the university, as many of the former faculty had either been Jewish or married to Jews.

*23 January 1862, Königsberg (now Kaliningrad, Russia) or Wehlau, Prussia

†14 February 1943, Göttingen, Nazi Germany

David Hilbert was a German mathematician and one of the most influential mathematicians of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Hilbert discovered and developed a broad range of fundamental ideas in many areas, including invariant theory, the calculus of variations, commutative algebra, algebraic number theory, the foundations of geometry, spectral theory of operators and its application to integral equations, mathematical physics, and the foundations of mathematics (particularly proof theory).

Hilbert adopted and defended Georg Cantor’s set theory and transfinite numbers. In 1900, he presented a collection of problems that set the course for much of the mathematical research of the 20th century.

Hilbert and his students contributed significantly to establishing rigor and developed important tools used in modern mathematical physics. Hilbert is known as one of the founders of proof theory and mathematical logic.

In 1884, Adolf Hurwitz arrived from Göttingen as an Extraordinarius (i.e., an associate professor). An intense and fruitful scientific exchange among the three began, and Minkowski and Hilbert especially would exercise a reciprocal influence over each other at various times in their scientific careers.

Hilbert obtained his doctorate in 1885, with a dissertation, written under Ferdinand von Lindemann, titled Über invariante Eigenschaften spezieller binärer Formen, insbesondere der Kugelfunktionen (“On the invariant properties of special binary forms, in particular the spherical harmonic functions”).

Hilbert remained at the University of Königsberg as a Privatdozent (senior lecturer) from 1886 to 1895. In 1895, as a result of intervention on his behalf by Felix Klein, he obtained the position of Professor of Mathematics at the University of Göttingen. During the Klein and Hilbert years, Göttingen became the preeminent institution in the mathematical world.He remained there for the rest of his life.

Hilbert unified the field of algebraic number theory with his 1897 treatise Zahlbericht (literally “report on numbers”). He also resolved a significant number-theory problem formulated by Waring in 1770. As with the finiteness theorem, he used an existence proof that shows there must be solutions for the problem rather than providing a mechanism to produce the answers.

He then had little more to publish on the subject; but the emergence of Hilbert modular forms in the dissertation of a student means his name is further attached to a major area.


Fibonacci

Fibonacci

Although Fibonacci’s Liber Abaci contains the earliest known description of the sequence outside of India, the sequence had been described by Indian mathematicians as early as the sixth century.

Fibonacci was a guest of Emperor Frederick II, who enjoyed mathematics and science.

In 1240, the Republic of Pisa honored Fibonacci (referred to as Leonardo Bigollo) by granting him a salary in a decree that recognized him for the services that he had given to the city as an advisor on matters of accounting and instruction to citizens.

Fibonacci is thought to have died between 1240 and 1250, in Pisa.

There are many mathematical concepts named after Fibonacci because of a connection to the Fibonacci numbers. Examples include the Brahmagupta–Fibonacci identity, the Fibonacci search technique, and the Pisano period.

Beyond mathematics, namesakes of Fibonacci include the asteroid 6765 Fibonacci and the art rock band The Fibonaccis.

*c. 1170, Pisa, Republic of Pisa

†c. 1250 , Pisa, Republic of Pisa

Fibonacci also known as Leonardo Bonacci, Leonardo of Pisa, or Leonardo Bigollo Pisano (‘Leonardo the Traveller from Pisa’), was an Italian mathematician from the Republic of Pisa, considered to be “the most talented Western mathematician of the Middle Ages”.

The name he is commonly called, Fibonacci, was made up in 1838 by the Franco-Italian historian Guillaume Libri and is short for filius Bonacci (‘son of Bonacci’). However, even earlier in 1506 a notary of the Holy Roman Empire, Perizolo mentions Leonardo as “Lionardo Fibonacci”. He also introduced Europe to the sequence of Fibonacci numbers, which he used as an example in Liber Abaci.

Fibonacci travelled with his father as a young boy, and it was in Bugia where he was educated that he learned about the Hindu–Arabic numeral system.

Fibonacci travelled around the Mediterranean coast, meeting with many merchants and learning about their systems of doing arithmetic. He soon realised the many advantages of the Hindu-Arabic system, which, unlike the Roman numerals used at the time, allowed easy calculation using a place-value system.

In 1202, he completed the Liber Abaci (Book of Abacus or The Book of Calculation), which popularized Hindu–Arabic numerals in Europe.

In the Liber Abaci, Fibonacci introduced the so-called modus Indorum (method of the Indians), today known as the Hindu–Arabic numeral system. The manuscript book advocated numeration with the digits 0–9 and place value. The book showed the practical use and value of the new Hindu-Arabic numeral system by applying the numerals to commercial bookkeeping, converting weights and measures, calculation of interest, money-changing, and other applications.

Liber Abaci posed and solved a problem involving the growth of a population of rabbits based on idealized assumptions. The solution, generation by generation, was a sequence of numbers later known as Fibonacci numbers.


Bernhard Riemann

Bernhard Riemann

Gauss recommended that Riemann give up his theological work and enter the mathematical field; after getting his father’s approval, Riemann transferred to the University of Berlin in 1847. During his time of study, Carl Gustav Jacob Jacobi, Peter Gustav Lejeune Dirichlet, Jakob Steiner, and Gotthold Eisenstein were teaching.

Riemann held his first lectures in 1854, which founded the field of Riemannian geometry and thereby set the stage for Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity. In 1857, there was an attempt to promote Riemann to extraordinary professor status at the University of Göttingen.

In 1859, he was promoted to head the mathematics department at the University of Göttingen. He was also the first to suggest using dimensions higher than merely three or four in order to describe physical reality.

His famous 1859 paper on the prime-counting function, containing the original statement of the Riemann hypothesis, is regarded as one of the most influential papers in analytic number theory. Through his pioneering contributions to differential geometry, Riemann laid the foundations of the mathematics of general relativity. He is considered by many to be one of the greatest mathematicians of all time.

Riemann fled Göttingen when the armies of Hanover and Prussia clashed there in 1866. He died of tuberculosis during his third journey to Italy in Selasca.

*17 September 1826, Breselenz, Kingdom of Hanover (modern-day Germany)

†20 July 1866, Selasca, Kingdom of Italy

Georg Friedrich Bernhard Riemann  was a German mathematician who made contributions to analysis, number theory, and differential geometry. In the field of real analysis, he is mostly known for the first rigorous formulation of the integral, the Riemann integral, and his work on Fourier series. His contributions to complex analysis include most notably the introduction of Riemann surfaces, breaking new ground in a natural, geometric treatment of complex analysis.

Riemann exhibited exceptional mathematical skills, such as calculation abilities, from an early age but suffered from timidity and a fear of speaking in public.

During 1840, Riemann went to Hanover to live with his grandmother and attend lyceum (middle school years). After the death of his grandmother in 1842, he attended high school at the Johanneum Lüneburg. In high school, Riemann studied the Bible intensively, but he was often distracted by mathematics.

His teachers were amazed by his ability to perform complicated mathematical operations, in which he often outstripped his instructor’s knowledge.

In 1846, at the age of 19, he started studying philology and Christian theology in order to become a pastor and help with his family’s finances.

During the spring of 1846, his father, after gathering enough money, sent Riemann to the University of Göttingen, where he planned to study towards a degree in Theology. However, once there, he began studying mathematics under Carl Friedrich Gauss .


Srinivasa Ramanujan

Srinivasa Ramanujan

He became one of the youngest Fellows of the Royal Society and only the second Indian member, and the first Indian to be elected a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. Of his original letters, Hardy stated that a single look was enough to show they could have been written only by a mathematician of the highest calibre, comparing Ramanujan to mathematical geniuses such as Euler and Jacobi.

In 1919, ill health—now believed to have been hepatic amoebiasis (a complication from episodes of dysentery many years previously)—compelled Ramanujan’s return to India, where he died in 1920 at the age of 32.

His last letters to Hardy, written in January 1920, show that he was still continuing to produce new mathematical ideas and theorems. His “lost notebook”, containing discoveries from the last year of his life, caused great excitement among mathematicians when it was rediscovered in 1976.

A deeply religious Hindu, Ramanujan credited his substantial mathematical capacities to divinity, and said the mathematical knowledge he displayed was revealed to him by his family goddess Namagiri Thayar. He once said, “An equation for me has no meaning unless it expresses a thought of God.”

*22 December 1887, Erode, Madras Presidency, British India

†26 April 1920, Kumbakonam, Madras Presidency, British India

Srinivasa Ramanujan was an Indian mathematician who lived during the British Rule in India. Though he had almost no formal training in pure mathematics, he made substantial contributions to mathematical analysis, number theory, infinite series, and continued fractions, including solutions to mathematical problems then considered unsolvable.

Ramanujan initially developed his own mathematical research in isolation: according to Hans Eysenck: “He tried to interest the leading professional mathematicians in his work, but failed for the most part. What he had to show them was too novel, too unfamiliar, and additionally presented in unusual ways; they could not be bothered”.

Seeking mathematicians who could better understand his work, in 1913 he began a postal correspondence with the English mathematician G. H. Hardy at the University of Cambridge, England. Recognizing Ramanujan’s work as extraordinary, Hardy arranged for him to travel to Cambridge.

In his notes, Hardy commented that Ramanujan had produced groundbreaking new theorems, including some that “defeated me completely; I had never seen anything in the least like them before”, and some recently proven but highly advanced results.

During his short life, Ramanujan independently compiled nearly 3,900 results (mostly identities and equations). Many were completely novel; his original and highly unconventional results, such as the Ramanujan prime, the Ramanujan theta function, partition formulae and mock theta functions, have opened entire new areas of work and inspired a vast amount of further research.

Of his thousands of results, all but a dozen or two have now been proven correct. The Ramanujan Journal, a scientific journal, was established to publish work in all areas of mathematics influenced by Ramanujan, and his notebooks—containing summaries of his published and unpublished results—have been analysed and studied for decades since his death as a source of new mathematical ideas.

As late as 2012, researchers continued to discover that mere comments in his writings about “simple properties” and “similar outputs” for certain findings were themselves profound and subtle number theory results that remained unsuspected until nearly a century after his death.

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