The “Prince of Mathematicians” has received a royal salute from Google Doodle.
Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss, who lived from 1777 to 1855, made instrumental contributions to number theory, algebra, geophysics, mechanics and statistics.
Gauss, born in Brunswick in northern Germany to a poor family, was a child prodigy. At age 8, he is believed to have the ability to add up every number from 1 to 100.
One of his first major equations was working out his date of birth, April 30, which his mother hadn’t recorded. He used the only information she had: that it was a Wednesday, eight days before the Feast of Ascension in 1777.
At university when he was 19, Gauss created the mathematical proof for the heptadecagon, a 17-sided polygon. He requested that a heptadecagon be inscribed on his tombstone, but it was too difficult for the stonemason, who said it would just look like a circle.
Remember your prime numbers? That same year, Gauss was involved in proving the prime number theorem, helping understand how prime numbers are distributed among integers, or whole numbers. And yet again that same year, he discovered the quadratic reciprocity law, which allows mathematicians to determine the solvability of any quadratic equation in modular arithmetic.
Gauss’ work on number theory, which he completed when he was 21, was published as a textbook when he was 24. Not only did it involve his original work, but it reconciled that of other mathematicians. It is considered his magnum opus and had a huge impact on the field.
Add to those achievements a discovery in astronomy. In his mid-20s, Gauss calculated the orbit of the asteroid Ceres.